Covid-19 pandemics has fostered a pervasive use of facemasks all around the world. While they help in preventing infection, there are concerns related to the possible impact of facemasks on social communication. The present study investigates how emotion recognition, trust attribution and re-identification of faces differ when faces are seen without mask, with a standard medical facemask, and with a transparent facemask restoring visual access to the mouth region. Our results show that, in contrast to standard medical facemasks, transparent masks significantly spare the capability to recognize emotional expressions. Moreover, transparent masks spare the capability to infer trustworthiness from faces with respect to standard medical facemasks which, in turn, dampen the perceived untrustworthiness of faces. Remarkably, while transparent masks (unlike standard masks) do not impair emotion recognition and trust attribution, they seemingly do impair the subsequent re-identification of the same, unmasked, face (like standard masks). Taken together, this evidence supports a dissociation between mechanisms sustaining emotion and identity processing. This study represents a pivotal step in the much-needed analysis of face reading when the lower portion of the face is occluded by a facemask.
Marini, M., Ansani, A., Paglieri, F., Caruana, F., Viola, M. (2021). The Impact of Facemasks on Emotion Recognition, Trust Attribution, and Re-identification.