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Face Covering: Considering the implications for face perception and speech communication

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many governments around the world around the world required (or strongly) recommended the wearing of face coverings (masks) in public spaces – many of these restrictions remain in place today.  While the wearing of face coverings to prevent spread of disease is fairly common in some Asian countries, it seems likely that their use elsewhere will continue, even after the immediate risk of COVID-19 subsides.

This thematic series highlights new work that characterizes the consequences of face masks on (a) the recognition and interpretation of facial expressions and emotions, (b) communication and social interactions, and (c) human and computational identity recognition and disguise. These are addressed within the broad context of ways in which face perception and communication may change, comparisons of the social impact of face coverings in societies in which they are common versus those in which they are a new phenomenon, and changes in perceived interpersonal communication.

The overall goal is to develop accounts of how and why face coverings influence our face perception and speech communication, with specific attention to the relevant cognitive and behavioral mechanisms, as well as the practical implications and limitations.

Edited by:

  • Karen Lander
  • Gabrielle Saunders
  1. The widespread use of face masks in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic has promoted research on their effect on the perception and recognition of faces. There is growing evidence that masks hinder the recognitio...

    Authors: Tzvi Ganel and Melvyn A. Goodale
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:84
  2. Face masks are now worn frequently to reduce the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Their health benefits are undisputable, but covering the lower half of one's face also makes it harder for others to recogniz...

    Authors: Mike Rinck, Maximilian A. Primbs, Iris A. M. Verpaalen and Gijsbert Bijlstra
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:83
  3. Face coverings have been key in reducing the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, they have hindered interpersonal communication, particularly for those who rely on speechreading to aid communication. The ava...

    Authors: Eva Gutierrez-Sigut, Veronica M. Lamarche, Katherine Rowley, Emilio Ferreiro Lago, María Jesús Pardo-Guijarro, Ixone Saenz, Berta Frigola, Santiago Frigola, Delfina Aliaga and Laura Goldberg
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:81
  4. Mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing interest in the functional impact of masks on speech and communication. Prior work has shown that masks dampen sound, impede visual communicatio...

    Authors: Sarah E. Gutz, Hannah P. Rowe, Victoria E. Tilton-Bolowsky and Jordan R. Green
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:73
  5. Use of face masks is one of the measures adopted by the general community to stop the transmission of disease during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This wide use of face masks has indeed been shown to disrupt...

    Authors: Ricky V. Tso, Celine O. Chui and Janet H. Hsiao
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:64
  6. Surgical face masks reduce the spread of airborne pathogens but also disturb the flow of information between individuals. The risk of getting seriously ill after infection with SARS-COV-2 during the present CO...

    Authors: Lea Henke, Maja Guseva, Katja Wagemans, Doris Pischedda, John-Dylan Haynes, Georg Jahn and Silke Anders
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:63
  7. While face masks provide necessary protection against disease spread, they occlude the lower face parts (chin, mouth, nose) and consequently impair the ability to accurately perceive facial emotions. Here we e...

    Authors: Sarah D. McCrackin, Sabrina Provencher, Ethan Mendell and Jelena Ristic
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:59

    The Correction to this article has been published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:75

  8. Facial expressions provide key information for successful social interactions. Recent research finds that accurate perception of emotion expressions decreases when faces are presented with face masks. What is ...

    Authors: Riley H. Swain, Aminda J. O’Hare, Kamila Brandley and A. Tye Gardner
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:54
  9. Face masks occlude parts of the face which hinders social communication and emotion recognition. Since sign language users are known to process facial information not only perceptually but also linguistically,...

    Authors: Wee Kiat Lau, Jana Chalupny, Klaudia Grote and Anke Huckauf
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:53
  10. Although the positive effects of congruency between stimuli are well replicated in face memory paradigms, mixed findings have been found in face matching. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, face masks are n...

    Authors: Alejandro J. Estudillo and Hoo Keat Wong
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:49
  11. Over the past two years, face masks have been a critical tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. While previous studies have examined the effects of masks on speech recognition, much of this work was condu...

    Authors: Anne Marie Crinnion, Joseph C. Toscano and Cheyenne M. Toscano
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:46
  12. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wearing of face masks became mandatory in public areas or at workplaces in many countries. While offering protection, the coverage of large parts of our face (nose, mouth and ...

    Authors: Diana Kollenda and Benjamin de Haas
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:45
  13. Previous research has shown that face masks impair the ability to perceive social information and the readability of emotions. These studies mostly explored the effect of standard medical, often white, masks o...

    Authors: Olesya Blazhenkova, Kivilcim Dogerlioglu-Demir and Robert W. Booth
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:33
  14. We examined how mask use affects performance and eye movements in face recognition and whether strategy change reflected in eye movements is associated with performance change. Eighty-eight participants perfor...

    Authors: Janet Hui-wen Hsiao, Weiyan Liao and Ricky Van Yip Tso
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:32
  15. To slow the spread of COVID-19, many people now wear face masks in public. Face masks impair our ability to identify faces, which can cause problems for professional staff who identify offenders or members of ...

    Authors: Daniel J. Carragher, Alice Towler, Viktoria R. Mileva, David White and Peter J. B. Hancock
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:30
  16. Previous research has mostly approached face recognition and target identification by focusing on face perception mechanisms, but memory mechanisms also appear to play a role. Here, we examined how the presenc...

    Authors: Teresa Garcia-Marques, Manuel Oliveira and Ludmila Nunes
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:29
  17. Research has consistently shown that concealing facial features can hinder subsequent identification. The widespread adoption of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical and urgent ...

    Authors: Krista D. Manley, Jason C. K. Chan and Gary L. Wells
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:27
  18. Face masks have become common protective measures in community and workplace environments to help reduce the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Face masks can mak...

    Authors: Brenda T. Poon and Lorienne M. Jenstad
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:24
  19. Some research indicates that face masks impair identification and other judgements such as trustworthiness. However, it is unclear whether those effects have abated over time as individuals adjust to widesprea...

    Authors: Rachel J. Bennetts, Poppy Johnson Humphrey, Paulina Zielinska and Sarah Bate
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:18
  20. This study examined whether our ability to accurately estimate unfamiliar faces’ ages declines when they are wearing sunglasses or surgical-style face masks and whether these disguises make it harder to later ...

    Authors: Craig Thorley, Benjamin Acton, Jesse Armstrong, Shanade Ford and Margaret Gundry
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:17
  21. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in increased use of face masks worldwide. Here, we examined the effect of wearing a face mask on the ability to recognise facial expressions of emotion. In a within-subjec...

    Authors: Emily Grenville and Dominic M. Dwyer
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:15
  22. Face perception is considered a remarkable visual ability in humans that is subject to a prolonged developmental trajectory. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mask-wearing has become mandatory for adults a...

    Authors: Andreja Stajduhar, Tzvi Ganel, Galia Avidan, R. Shayna Rosenbaum and Erez Freud
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:9
  23. Facial attractiveness in humans signals an individual’s genetic condition, underlying physiology and health status, serving as a cue to one’s mate value. The practice of wearing face masks for prevention of tr...

    Authors: Farid Pazhoohi and Alan Kingstone
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:6
  24. The sanitary-mask effect (Miyazaki and Kawahara in Jpn Psychol Res 58(3):261–272, 2016) is the finding that medical face masks prompt an image of disease and thus result in lower ratings of facial attractivene...

    Authors: Oliver Hies and Michael B. Lewis
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:1
  25. Facial masks have become and may remain ubiquitous. Though important for preventing infection, they may also serve as a reminder of the risks of disease. Thus, they may either act as cues for threat, priming a...

    Authors: Anand Krishna, Johannes Rodrigues, Vanessa Mitschke and Andreas B. Eder
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2021 6:75