Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why do some people never forget a face?

Date:
December 4, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
"Face recognition is an important social skill, but not all of us are equally good at it," says a cognitive psychologist. But what accounts for the difference? A new study provides the first experimental evidence that the inequality of abilities is rooted in the unique way in which the mind perceives faces.

"Face recognition is an important social skill, but not all of us are equally good at it," says Beijing Normal University cognitive psychologist Jia Liu. But what accounts for the difference? A new study by Liu and colleagues Ruosi Wang, Jingguang Li, Huizhen Fang, and Moqian Tian provides the first experimental evidence that the inequality of abilities is rooted in the unique way in which the mind perceives faces. "Individuals who process faces more holistically" -- that is, as an integrated whole -- "are better at face recognition," says Liu.

The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

In daily life, we recognize faces both holistically and also "analytically" -- that is, picking out individual parts, such as eyes or nose. But while the brain uses analytical processing for all kinds of objects -- cars, houses, animals -- "holistic processing is thought to be especially critical to face recognition," says Liu.

To isolate holistic processing as the key to face recognition, the researchers first measured the ability of study participants -- 337 male and female students -- to remember whole faces, using a task in which they had to select studied faces and flowers from among unfamiliar ones.

The next two tasks measured performance in tasks that mark holistic processing. The composite-face effect (CFE) shows up when two faces are split horizontally and stuck together. It's easier to identify the top half-face when it's misaligned with the bottom one than when the two halves are fitted smoothly together. "That's because our brain automatically combines them to form a new" -- and unfamiliar -- "face," says Liu: evidence of holistic processing. The other marker of holistic processing is the whole-part effect (WPE). In this one, people are shown a face, then asked to recognize a part of it -- say, the nose. They do better when the feature is presented within the whole face than when it stands on its own among other noses: again, we remember the nose integrated into the whole face. The researchers also assessed participants' general intelligence.

The results: Those participants who scored higher on CFE and WPE -- that is, who did well in holistic processing -- also performed better at the first task of recognizing faces. But there was no link between facial recognition and general intelligence, which is made up of various cognitive processes -- a suggestion that face processing is unique.

"Our findings partly explains why some never forget faces, while others misrecognize their friends and relatives frequently," says Liu. That's why the research holds promise for therapies for that second category of people, who may suffer disorders such as prosopagnosia (face blindness) and autism. Knowing that the mind receives a face as one whole thing and not as a collection of individual parts, "we may train people on holistic processing to improve their ability in recognizing faces," Liu says.

The article is entitled, "Individual Differences in Holistic Processing Predict Face-recognition Ability."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Why do some people never forget a face?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202155755.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, December 4). Why do some people never forget a face?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202155755.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Why do some people never forget a face?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111202155755.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins