The effect of face masks and sunglasses on identity and expression recognition with super-recognizers and typical observers

Eilidh Noyes, Josh P. Davis, Nikolay Petrov, Katie L.H. Gray, Kay L. Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Face masks present a new challenge to face identification (here matching) and emotion recognition in Western cultures. Here, we present the results of three experiments that test the effect of masks, and also the effect of sunglasses (an occlusion that individuals tend to have more experienced with) on (i) familiar face matching, (ii) unfamiliar face matching and (iii) emotion categorization. Occlusion reduced accuracy in all three tasks, with most errors in the mask condition; however, there was little difference in performance for faces in masks compared with faces in sunglasses. Super-recognizers, people who are highly skilled at matching unconcealed faces, were impaired by occlusion, but at the group level, performed with higher accuracy than controls on all tasks. Results inform psychology theory with implications for everyday interactions, security and policing in a mask-wearing society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201169
Number of pages18
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume8
Issue number3
Early online date24 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021

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