Recognition of Masked Faces in the Era of the Pandemic: No Improvement Despite Extensive Natural Exposure

Erez Freud, Daniela Di Giammarino, Andreja Stajduhar, R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Galia Avidan, Tzvi Ganel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Face masks, which became prevalent across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, have had a negative impact on face recognition despite the availability of critical information from uncovered face parts, especially the eyes. An outstanding question is whether face-mask effects would be attenuated following extended natural exposure. This question also pertains, more generally, to face-recognition training protocols. We used the Cambridge Face Memory Test in a cross-sectional study (N = 1,732 adults) at six different time points over a 20-month period, alongside a 12-month longitudinal study (N = 208). The results of the experiments revealed persistent deficits in recognition of masked faces and no sign of improvement across time points. Additional experiments verified that the amount of individual experience with masked faces was not correlated with the mask effect. These findings provide compelling evidence that the face-processing system does not easily adapt to visual changes in face stimuli, even following prolonged real-life exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1635-1650
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • face perception
  • holistic processing
  • inversion effect
  • learning and training
  • open data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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