Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Crowley, M., McCarthy, C. & Kelly, H.
From Molecules to People
Masking our Communication: The Effects of Face Coverings on the Perception of Facial Expressions
UCC, Cork
Poster Presentation
Optional Fields
Mandatory wearing of facemasks was an unprecedented Public Health restriction during COVID-19. Few studies have explored the impact of face coverings on the interpretation of emotions from facial expressions which can negatively impact communicative exchange. Aims: This study investigated if face coverings affect the ability to recognise facial expressions/emotions; pertinence of the location of face coverings (upper versus lower face), and, if face coverings are considered to impact communication. Method: An online survey was completed by 573 participants (aged 18-75+) who matched photographic facial expressions with emotions (happy, sad, anger, surprise, fear, disgust) under three conditions (upper face covered, lower face covered, uncovered). Accuracy of facial expression identification was analysed. One-way ANOVA compared within/between conditions. Potential association with occupation type was analysed using Chi-square. Participants’ reflections on experiences of wearing face masks and impacts on communication were examined using a qualitative descriptive approach. Findings: ‘Happy’ was the most accurately identified emotion for all conditions with ‘fear’ and ‘disgust’ more challenging to recognise, particularly with lower face covering. There was no association with facial expression/emotion identification and gender, age or occupation. Participants (85%) agreed that face coverings negatively impact communication. Three themes were identified - Visual Aspect of Communication; Understanding Verbal Communication and Interpreting Emotional Expressions. Conclusion: Face coverings negatively affect facial expression/emotion recognition with lower face coverings posing greater challenges than upper. Participants reported misunderstandings and breakdowns in verbal communication exchanges and highlighted the importance of seeing the full face to more successfully interpret communicative exchanges.