Play and Children's Masks

Play and Children's Masks

Sabine Doebel, Nicole J. Stucke, & Songhan Pang recently published an article in Scientific Reports asking whether children wearing masks might disrupt some normal functioning, like wanting to play with another child.

Kindchenschema and cuteness elicit interest in caring for and playing with young children, but less so when children are masked

Abstract: Cuteness in the young has long been theorized to elicit care and protection. Most research on this topic has focused on human infants, despite theories suggesting that cuteness may elicit broader social interest that could support learning and development beyond infancy. In four experiments (N = 531 adults, 98 children), we tested whether ‘kindchenschema’—facial features associated with cuteness—and perceived cuteness elicit interest in playing with and caring for children, and whether masks disrupt these processes. Participants viewed images of children’s faces, masked or unmasked. Kindchenschema correlated with perceived cuteness and age, and these variables predicted adults’ interest in playing with and caring for children. Masks did not reduce cuteness ratings or interest in children, although they weakened relations between perceived cuteness and interest, and between perceived age and interest. Cuteness and related signals may guide adults’ interactions with children, fostering learning and development.