The pandemic has changed the perceptions of faces with masks

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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The Covid-19 pandemic has improved the perception of facial attractiveness of people wearing masks

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The Covid-19 pandemic has improved the perception of facial attractiveness of people wearing masks. This was revealed by a new study conducted by the University of Hokkaido.





In the last year we have changed our habits, we have started using personal protective equipment. Masks have become one of the most used and unfortunately also thrown objects. In Japan, the use of masks preceded the pandemic but it is clear that between 2020 and 2021 it has intensified. This affected perceptions of facial attractiveness. We got used to seeing the eyes but not the nose and mouth, eliminating part of the facial expressions.

A team of four scientists, including Professor Jun I. Kawahara of the University of Hokkaido's Faculty of Letters, tried to study its effects and found that there has been a change in how the use of face masks affects on the perception of facial attractiveness among the Japanese population. Their findings were published in the i-Perception journal.

Facial attractiveness is influenced by many features examined since 2016 including facial symmetry, facial contours, softness or roughness of the skin. The "mask effect" undoubtedly affects perceptions of facial attractiveness on the basis of two effects:

  • the mask covers the lower half of the face and hides the features used to judge facial attractiveness (occlusion); 
  • the very act of wearing a face mask is associated with disease or susceptibility to infection.

According to the scientists, in both cases the masks make faces appear less attractive. 

@Miki Kamatani, et al. i-Perception

The new study, conducted in 286 adults, revealed that a greater percentage of respondents felt that wearing a face mask had a neutral effect on observers. Before the pandemic, the opposite was true. A survey of 59 individuals also showed that the perception of face masks changed after the onset of the pandemic. In particular, the second effect was reduced and perceptions of attractiveness depended mainly on the occlusion.



@Miki Kamatani, et al. i-Perception

In other words, the perception of ill health associated with the use of the mask was eliminated, reducing the negative impact on attractiveness ratings.

Sources of reference: University of Hokkaido, i-Perception

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