A study led by Cardiff University found that people unable to use their mouth to mimic that emotion struggled to empathize with other people. The research has been published in the Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience journal
To BBC News, lead author Ross Vanderwert said: “People tend to automatically imitate others’ facial expressions of emotion when looking at them, whether that be a smile, a frown, or a smirk.
“This facial mimicry – where the brain recreates and mirrors the emotional experience of the other person – affects how we empathize with others and interact socially.
“Our study suggests that when the movements of the lower part of the face are disrupted or hidden, this can be problematic, particularly for positive social interactions and the ability to share emotions.”
He added: “Wearing a face mask continues to be vital to protect ourselves and others during the Covid-19 pandemic – but our research suggests this may have important implications for the way we communicate and interact.”
Source: Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience (2021)