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The pandemic has underscored how humans can only grow and thrive in relationship with other humans

“There is no art in finding the construct of the mind in the face,” says Duncan, of the duplicity of the first Thane of Cawdor, in Macbeth. Which, on the face of it, has the authority of proof – the king did not see the treason coming – but which, on closer examination, is patently false. Reading oneself is one of the most complex and widespread human achievements, even if our efforts do not always succeed.

In fact, how we perceive and respond to others largely shapes who we are. There is neuroscientific evidence that the earliest brain development occurs through the relationships a baby has with the people around them; the minute-by-minute test of whether an adult will come when called, and whether or not their face and actions tell the baby they are nice when they come, being established in the structure of the growing brain and forming the basis of the instincts that influence our interactions with others throughout our lives. This applies most intensely to primary carers, but also to peers and society – one of the many reasons why it is so concerning to read reports that some children, accustomed to a combination of reduced social contact and masks, arrive in early childhood settings with face reading difficulties.

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