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Adjusting to masks: How our brains are seeking new cues to read faces and expressions

People wearing a protective face masks as precaution against the conoravirus ride a scooter in Paris
People wearing a protective face masks as precaution against the conoravirus ride a scooter in Paris Copyright Michel Euler/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Copyright Michel Euler/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Natalie Huet
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Why are we suddenly struggling to communicate with this new accessory on? Did we take for granted just how much information our mouths convey?

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Whether we like it or not, many of us now have to wear a mask, in public spaces and at work. And not seeing half of people's faces is having an unsettling impact on the way we interact and communicate with each other.

If you’ve found yourself squinting and winking a lot more these days, you’re not alone. Many of us are realising we took for granted just how much information our mouths convey.

"I think people are finding ways around it and maybe being a little more enthusiastic in their gestures than they might otherwise be," Peter Hancock, a psychology professor at the University of Sterling, in Scotland, told Euronews.

One big unknown is the impact mask-wearing might have on babies and children growing up in this pandemic, and whether they might develop a different understanding of faces as a result.

"We do wonder what might happen if children spent their formative months only interacting with people with a mask on," Hancock said.

Interestingly, computers don't necessarily fare better than humans, and masks are also posing serious problems for facial recognition software.

Watch more from Hancock's interview in the video player, above.

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