Study looks at how wearing masks can change the way we recognize faces

Face blindness is a medical condition

DETROIT – Have you ever run across someone that looked familiar and the only thing stopping you from saying hello was that you couldn’t quite place their face?

If that’s the case -- then you’re probably finding it even harder now that everyone is wearing a mask. A new study looks into how masks change the way we recognize faces.

Human brains aren’t wired to recognize individual facial features as much as the entire appearance of a face. For some people, the inability to recognize faces is an actual medical problem known as prosopagnosia. It’s a neurological disorder known as face blindness.

It can be congenital or the result of head trauma -- or a stroke affecting a very specific part of the brain. People with severe face blindness have difficulty recognizing close friends, family members and even their own face.

Wearing masks doesn’t cause problems like that, but it can impair casual encounters with acquaintances. The study found that people’s ability to recognize faces was decreased by about 15 percent when a mask was worn.

For people who were not good at recognizing faces even without a mask, a mask lowered their performance to the level of a person with face blindness.

Watch the video above for the full report.

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