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Face masks have emotion-dependent dissociable effects on accuracy and confidence in identifying facial expressions of emotion

Grenville, Emily and Dwyer, Dominic M. ORCID: 2022. Face masks have emotion-dependent dissociable effects on accuracy and confidence in identifying facial expressions of emotion. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 7 , 15. 10.1186/s41235-022-00366-w

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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-subjects design, 100 UK-based undergraduate students were shown facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and neutral expression; these were either posed with or without a face mask, or with a face mask artificially imposed onto them. Participants identified the emotion portrayed in the photographs from a fixed choice array of answers and rated their confidence in their selection. While overall accuracy was higher without than with masks, the effect varied across emotions, with a clear advantage without masks in disgust, happiness, and sadness; no effect for neutral, and lower accuracy without masks for anger and fear. In contrast, confidence was generally higher without masks, with the effect clear for all emotions other than anger. These results confirm that emotion recognition is affected by face mask wearing, but reveal that the effect depends on the emotion being displayed—with this emotion-dependence not reflected in subjects’ confidence. The disparity between the effects of mask wearing on different emotions and the failure of this to be reflected in confidence ratings suggests that mask wearing not only effects emotion recognition, but may also create biases in the perception of facial expressions of emotion of which perceivers are unaware. In addition, the similarity of results between the Imposed Mask and Posed Mask conditions suggests that prior research using artificially imposed masks has not been deleteriously affected by the use of this manipulation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Springer
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 February 2022
Date of Acceptance: 30 January 2022
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2023 03:54

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