Pandemic has not taught people to recognize each other better in masks

(ORDO NEWS) — Even after a long experience of interacting with people in masks, we did not get better at recognizing their faces. Perhaps these abilities in adults can no longer improve.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has been going on for more than two years, and people around the world are forced to wear masks every now and then to limit the spread of the infection.

During this time, neural networks have taken a huge step forward and now identify a person’s face, even if his face is covered with a medical mask.

It is natural to assume that our own natural neural networks that recognize masked people have also improved. However, this did not happen, as shown by the new work of psychologists from the UK and Israel.

Erez Freud, a professor at the University of York, and his colleagues conducted a series of experiments on about 2,000 adult volunteers.

Their abilities were assessed using the Glasgow Face Match (GFMT) and Cambridge Face Memory (CFMT) tests: participants were required to recognize and compare faces, both natural and distorted, such as upside down or wearing medical masks.

Different samples were tested at six different points in time during the pandemic. In addition, the group was tested at the very beginning of the pandemic and a year later.

In neither option did the participants show any improvement in recognition. Previous CFMT tests have shown that the mask reduces the accuracy of face identification by an average of 15 percent – and exactly the same picture was observed after a year of the pandemic.

“Neither time nor the experience of interacting with masks has changed or weakened their influence (on perception – ed.), – says Erez Freud. “This suggests that the adult brain does not appear to be able to change in terms of facial recognition ability.”

In toddlers, these abilities develop very quickly and are highly dependent on experience and frequent observation of the faces of other people.

In this regard, Professor Freud adds that it would be especially interesting to know how the pandemic affected this process in children, how it influenced the formation of the ability to recognize faces with and without masks. But this is a subject for a separate work in the future.

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