Face Masks and Emotion Literacy in Preschool Children: Implications During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety regulations, such as face mask wearing, have become ubiquitous. Due to such regulations, many children’s interpersonal interactions occurring outside of the home now involve face coverings. The present study examined young children’s ability to identify emotions in an adult model wearing a face mask. Children (n = 77) between the ages of 3 and 5 were shown 16 different graphics of a model expressing four common emotions (happy, sad, angry, scared) across four conditions: still unmasked photo, still masked photo, masked video verbally implying the emotion, masked video verbally explicitly stating the emotion. We found that children were better able to identify emotions in an unmasked model and when the masked model explicitly stated or implied the emotion. No difference was found between an unmasked model, an explicitly stated emotion, or a verbally implied emotion. Children who were older, had more exposure to adults wearing masks, and attending group care were better able to identify the emotions. No relationship was found between the type of emotion, or participant’s gender or race and the ability to identify the emotions. Implications of these results are discussed.

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Early Childhood Education Journal



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