Skip to Content

Masks Do Make Faces Harder to Recognize, Study Shows

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30, 2020 -- A new study confirms what you likely already know from experience -- it can be hard to recognize people when they're wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For those of you who don't always recognize a friend or acquaintance wearing a mask, you are not alone," said researchers Tzvi Ganel and Erez Freud.

"Faces are among the most informative and significant visual stimuli in human perception and play a unique role in communicative, social daily interactions," they noted. "The unprecedented effort to minimize COVID-19 transmission has created a new dimension in facial recognition due to mask wearing."

Ganel is head of the Laboratory for Visual Perception and Action at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel. Freud is an assistant professor of psychology at York University in Toronto.

For their online study, they assessed how well nearly 500 people could identify masked and unmasked faces.

The participants were 15% less likely to identify someone wearing a mask, according to findings published Dec. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers found that masks interfere with getting an overall impression of faces and force people to check out specific facial features, which takes longer and is a less accurate.

"Instead of looking at the entire face, we're now forced to look at eyes, nose, cheeks and other visible elements separately to construct an entire facial face percept -- which we used to do instantly," the researchers explained in a university news release.

They said the challenge of identifying people wearing masks could have major effects on daily life, including social interactions and education.

"Given that mask wearing has rapidly become an important norm in countries around the globe, future research should explore the social and psychological implications of wearing masks on human behavior," Ganel said. "The magnitude of the effect of masks that we report in the current study is probably an underestimation of the actual degree in performance dropdown for masked faces."

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: December 2020

Read this next

More Than 200,000 Americans Have Lupus

THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2021 -- Just over 200,000 Americans have the autoimmune disorder lupus, and minority women are at highest risk, according to a new study. It's the first...

Health Highlights: Jan. 21, 2021

  Studies Pinpoint Genes That Raise Risk for Breast Cancer New research into exactly which genetic mutations increase breast cancer risk in women without a family history...

Biden COVID Advisor Says Poor Preparation, Changing Virus Could Slow Vaccine Effort

THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2021 -- U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to re-energize the nation's response to COVID-19, but one of his top pandemic advisors says that effort could be...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of Drugs.com in your inbox.