Face value

Research has revealed why some people never seem to forget faces

Face recognition is an important social skill but not many of us are equally good at it, reveals a study. Researcher Jia Liu along with colleagues from Beijing Normal University have demonstrated how this skill 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," said Jia, the journal Psychological Science has reported.

In daily life, we recognise faces both holistically and also analytically — that is, picking out individual parts, such as eyes or nose, according to a university statement.

"While the brain uses analytical processing for all kinds of objects like cars, houses, animals — holistic processing is thought to be especially critical to face recognition," said Jia.

The researchers first measured the ability of 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 is because our brain automatically combines them to form a new and unfamiliar-face," Jia said.

"Our findings partly explains why some never forget faces, while others misrecognise their friends and relatives frequently," Jia said. — IANS