Press release
Lausanne, 16 novembre 2021

Children recognise the emotions of adults, despite face masks

Mandatory face masks in schools and pre-schools have raised concerns about children's development and emotional recognition in particular. In this sometimes emotional context, a team of researchers at the CHUV investigated how children cope with this situation. Their study shows that children can adapt and are able to recognise the emotions of anger, joy and sadness, even behind facemasks.

© Myriam Bickle Graz

A team of researchers from the Woman-mother-child department from the Lausanne University Hospital and the Institute for Higher Education and Research in Healthcare, led by Dr. Myriam Bickle Graz, pediatrician in the Neonatology Department, wanted to understand how children recognise the emotions of "masked" adults.

This study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, was carried out in day-care centers of the district of Lausanne with 276 children, and showed that 3-6 year old pre-schoolers are able to recognize anger, joy and sadness, despite facemasks.

In this study, children without developmental problems were presented with pictures of actors with and without masks expressing an emotion. The children were able to identify the emotion accurately in 2/3 of the cases. The emotions of the masked faces were more difficult to recognize, but only to a small extent. Myriam Bickle Graz says: "Our results show that children have a great capacity for adaptation that should not be underestimated”. The results confirm that emotion recognition is slightly worse on masked faces. But this difference, although statistically significant, is small, with an overall difference of 4%."

About Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV)

CHUV is one of Switzerland’s five university hospitals, alongside Geneva, Bern, Basel and Zurich. It is tasked with three basic missions by the public authorities, namely care, teaching and research.

In 2022, CHUV’s 12,436 employees cared for 53,422 inpatients. It dealt with 79,414 emergencies, provided 3,900 daily outpatient consultations and welcomed 3,185 new babies into the world. Its annual budget is 1.9 billion Swiss francs.

CHUV works closely with the Faculty of Biology and Medicine of the University of Lausanne to provide undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education for doctors. It also works with other higher education institutions in the Lake Geneva area (including EPFL, ISREC, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Geneva), with the University Hospitals of Geneva and other hospitals, health care providers and institutions, such as the Federation of Vaud Hospitals and the Vaud Society of Medicine.

Since 2019, CHUV has been ranked as one of the best hospitals in the world according to Newsweek magazine.