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How Can Face Masks Make Communication Difficult?

The UK is one of the most recent countries which have made it compulsory to wear a face mask in public spaces due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While masks are important in preventing the further spread of the virus, there have been a number of questions related to their adverse effects.

For health care workers, the main concern was that constantly wearing masks is likely to cause skin damage. Since health care workers are on the front line and have to handle coronavirus patients, they have to wear specialized masks also known as N95 masks.

In comparison with the suggested cloth masks that people normally wear for protection from coronavirus infection, specialized masks are not as gentle on the skin. They also have the ability to damage skin especially when worn for longer periods of time.

The latest question, however, is not on the physical negative effects of constantly wearing masks but has more to do with how it can affect and change human interaction,

Facial expressions play a big role when it comes to expressing emotions including happiness, joy, anger, and all others. But if the lower part of the face is constantly covered, will it make it difficult for people to express themselves?

According to Ursula Hess, who is a psychologist, professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and a communications expert, this is a common misconception spreading among people.

People tend to express their feelings in a variety of ways. It only takes one certain movement such as raising an eyebrow to show any emotion. Additionally, the majority often combines facial expressions with hand movements.

Read also: CDC Updates New Guidelines On Reducing Coronavirus Risk in Everyday Life

Therefore, there is no need to rely solely on the lower part of the face for expressing feelings. Some people may argue that no other gesture can do what smiles can do.

Hess states that this is a wrong assumption. It is easy to tell someone is smiling just by looking into their eyes or even through the way they sound. Yes, smiles can, in fact, be heard.

Research has shown that people’s voices do change whenever they are smiling or feeling joyous. This is the primary reason why most people can tell when another person is smiling while talking on a phone.

The only emotion people would find it hard to fathom would be surprise or fear. Both of these sentiments can only be differentiated if the lower part of the face is visible. Hess explains a stretched mouth means fear and loose mouth usually means surprise.

For both of these emotions, the upper part of the face is very similar. So, wearing a mask can possibly make it harder to tell whether someone is surprised or afraid.

Overall, masks do not make much of a difference in self-expression and communication between people. Most people can recognize and interpret expressions easily.

This applies to both adults and children, Hess states. Many parents are afraid that masks will pose difficulties for children. This is not true. Nearly all children learn to decode feelings as soon as they begin going to school and socialize with other children.

If there is something a mask can potentially affect, it is other people’s response. Hess explains how people feel about the practice of wearing a face mask for coronavirus infection may affect how they behave and interact with a person wearing it.

For instance, some people believe that wearing a mask is useless and unnecessary. Such a person would find it difficult to communicate with another who does wear a face mask.

In case two people share a similar perspective on wearing a face mask in public, they are more likely to get along as they will communicate easily.



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