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Face Masks Protect From Infection but May Impair Social Cognition in Older Adults and People With Dementia.

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Schroeter, Matthias L 
Kynast, Jana 
Villringer, Arno 


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will have a high impact on older adults and people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Social cognition enables the understanding of another individual's feelings, intentions, desires and mental states, which is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. To prevent further spread of the disease face masks have been recommended. Although justified for prevention of this potentially devastating disease, they partly cover the face and hamper emotion recognition and probably mindreading. As social cognition is already affected by aging and dementia, strategies must be developed to cope with these profound changes of communication. Face masking even could accelerate cognitive decline in the long run. Further studies are of uppermost importance to address face masks' impact on social cognition in aging and dementia, for instance by longitudinally investigating decline before and in the pandemic, and to design compensatory strategies. These issues are also relevant for face masking in general, such as in medical surroundings-beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.



COVID, coronavirus, dementia, emotion recognition, face masking, mindreading, social cognition

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Front Psychol

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Frontiers Media SA