Sharing – From behind the Coronavirus Mask, an Unseen Smile Can Still Be Heard

It’s always nice when a study backs up what you’ve written about before.

It often helps to smile at others to ease social tensions. Recognizing a smile is much more difficult when the mouth is covered.
You’d think so. But I and my colleagues know from one of our studies, which will be published soon, that this is not the case: People’s ability to recognize emotional expressions does not get worse if their mouth and nose are covered. A real smile does not only move the mouth. Facial muscles—the zygomaticus major and the orbicularis oculi—also contract. The corners of the mouth turn up, and laugh lines appear around the eyes. In the study, observing the area around the eyes was usually enough to recognize someone else’s feelings. We examined this question with scarves, niqabs and masks.”

The one thing that I also noticed in this article is that some of the effects of smiling while wearing a mask go away when someone brings their own preconceived notions about mask wearing. Sadly, I think in the current time wearing a mask is being seen as a political statement by some people instead of a meaningful attempt to simply be aware of and thoughtful about the people around you. Thus, you can smile all day long at someone, and if they have a negative view of anyone who wears a mask, your smile will have no shot at changing their minds. So, by all means smile anyway, but remember that you can’t change a closed mind.


Photo by National Library of Medicine – History of Medicine

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