Scientists: 3-year-old children understand how their mother feels, even if she is wearing a mask

The results of a recent study confirmed that babies very accurately read the emotions of their parents, even if these emotions are hidden under the mask. It is impossible to hide anything from the child – and this is worth remembering.

During the coronavirus pandemic, protective masks have become a must to visit public places. Personal protective equipment should be worn, including in schools and kindergartens. But at the same time, experts have a fear that the mass wearing of face masks is bad for the development of young children.

The fact is that kids learn from adults not only to “read” emotions but also how to correctly pronounce sounds – articulation. It is especially important to see the face of the speaking person for children with hearing impairment. If the face is hidden by a mask, it is more difficult for the child to recognize speech and then repeat the sounds that adults pronounce.

However, a new study, which was recently published in the American medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, proves the groundlessness of these fears: preschoolers recognize the feelings of a person in a mask almost as if he was not wearing a mask. It turns out that the child understands the mood of mom, dad, or another adult in other ways.

The experiment, which was conducted by scientists from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, involved 300 children aged 3 to 6 years. They were shown 90 photos of actors depicting different emotions: joy, anger, or sadness. In half of the pictures, the faces were covered with masks. The guys were asked to name an emotion or point to a card with a suitable emoticon.

Masks worn by adults do not prevent children from understanding emotions

As a result, most preschoolers gave the right answers. Respondents correctly identified facial expressions without a mask in 70% of cases and in 67% if there was no mask. Older children found it easier to cope with the task than the kids. In a quarter of the kids, difficulties were caused in determining the emotions of sadness and anger, and about 21% of the children surveyed confused joy with anger or sadness.

A similar experience during the pandemic was conducted by Child Development Psychology Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Child Emotion Laboratory Ashley Ruba. The results were similar: “Young children most often correctly determine the emotions of a person whose face is covered with a mask,” says the psychologist. “I do not cease to repeat: in order to understand what a person feels, it is not necessary to look at his facial expressions – facial expression is just one of the characteristics, but there is still a tone of voice, body posture, other clues that both children and adults can use to better understand the interlocutor.”

Masks worn by adults do not prevent children from understanding emotions

It is important for children to learn to read lips to understand oral speech, but research shows that even in this case, most often the mask does not interfere, and the risk of contracting covid is much more dangerous than the far-fetched difficulties of wearing a mask. But adults should remember that the baby not only reads their feelings, emotions, and experiences but also passes them through himself. Therefore, it is very important to control yourself and your mimicry: this is necessary not only for the mental balance of the crumbs but also for him to learn self-control.

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