The use of masks has become commonplace with Covid, but this may have an effect on children’s facial recognition, which could lead to serious long-term disadvantages.
For more than two years now, Covid has been dictating the pace of our lives, with minor reliefs, from working in every field. Two years can be an extremely long time, even an entire university master’s degree in that time, and for a child in development, it is a very important period in terms of gaining social knowledge and developing their nerve pathways. What will be the consequences of mask used during the Covidos period in terms of children’s facial-recognition skills and thus their social sensitivity? Scientists are trying to predict this in their research, relying on past data as well.
Wearing a mask makes it difficult for children to recognize their face
A recent study in 2022 found that wearing a mask makes it difficult for children ages 6-14 to recognize their faces. They were found to be 20.1 percent more inaccurate in this respect for semi-covered faces, while the average for adults deteriorated by only 13.5 percent. This is due to the fact that, unlike adults, children do not yet process the signs and data that can be read from the faces with a holistic attitude: they still recognize people with a special focus on each facial feature. Because of this, while children have less trouble recognizing human faces in upside-down images, an important milestone in their everyday skills sheds light on it.
Holistic processing of faces plays an essential role in facial recognition and interpretation of social cues. Various researches suggest that those who have difficulty understanding the whole face as a whole tend to have difficulties coping in social situations, such as children on the autism spectrum or those with prosopagnosia (facial blindness) .
Wearing a mask for two years and minimizing social encounters are likely to leave a mark on children’s facial processing skills, although only time and more research will be able to prove this. Experts believe that this ability develops in children between the ages of 10 and 12 in a part of the brain called the “fusiform gyrus”. Another piece of research suggests that it is very important in children’s lives to see as many face types as possible: they are better able to recognize faces belonging to their own race.
Thus, wearing a mask for two years is expected to affect children’s facial recognition ability, as it has been shown to be more difficult to recognize masked faces and not take a holistic approach to the task. What this will actually mean for children is still unknown, and more research and long-term surveys will be needed.