Universität Bamberg

When wearing the mask, it is hard to read the emotional state of scientist Claus-Christian Carbon – making it quite ambiguous.

Face Masks Reduce the Ability to Read Emotions

Psychologist from Bamberg, Germany, conducted an experiment to test how face masks impact the reading of emotions.

Wearing face masks is an essential hygienic measure for preventing transmission of certain respiratory diseases like COVID-19. “Although more and more Westerners are accepting such masks, many feel that wearing a mask affects social interaction. This is a major obstacle to wearing of masks in everyday life,” says perception scientist Claus-Christian Carbon. The Professor of General Psychology and Methodology at the University of Bamberg, Bavaria / Germany, has carried out an experimental study.

Claus-Christian Carbon systematically tested how facial masks affect the reading of emotions. Forty-one participants (between the ages of 18 and 87) took part in the study. They rated the emotional expressions of twelve different faces. Each face was presented randomly with six different expressions: angry, disgusted, fearful, happy, neutral and sad. The faces were completely visible or partially covered by a face mask. Each participant received a total of 144 facial stimuli. "When faces were covered with typical community masks, the study participants’ emotional reading was severely impaired," Claus-Christian Carbon summarizes.

The scientist explains that “the participants recognized emotions less accurately and were less confident about their own assessments. What is particularly interesting and alarming in this context is that there were characteristic misinterpretations of individual emotions.” For example, participants rated a clearly disgusted facial expression with a mask as angry. They rated some emotions, such as happiness, sadness and anger, as neutral.“ So the emotional state was no longer perceived,” says the perception psychologist, who as a consequence recommends: “We can (and should) compensate for the inability to read emotions. For example, we can increasingly use body language, gestures and verbal communication in order to continue to be able to effectively interact socially.”

Further information is available at: www.uni-bamberg.de/en/allgpsych/news/artikel/new-study-on-emotional-reading-of-faces-wearing-masks

Image: When wearing the mask, it is hard to read the emotional state of scientist Claus-Christian Carbon – making it quite ambiguous.(2.0 MB)
Source: University of Bamberg, Germany

Further information for media representatives:

Contact for content-related queries:
Professor Claus-Christian Carbon, PhD
Department of General Psychology and Methodology
Phone: +49 951/863-1860

Media contact:
Patricia Achter
Press Officer
Phone: +49 951/863-1146