Why do we fumble at times in recognising faces?

January 16th, 2012 - 12:30 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 15 (IANS) Do you easily recognise everyone you’ve ever met, or do you struggle, even with familiar faces?

It is already known that we are better at recognising faces from our own race but researchers have only recently questioned how we assimilate the information we use to recognise people.

New research by the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus has shown that when it comes to recognising people, the Malaysian Chinese have adapted their facial recognition techniques to cope with living in a multicultural environment.

Chrystalle Tan, doctoral student in psychology at Nottingham-Malaysia, who led the study, said: “The traditional view is that people recognise faces by looking in turn at each eye and then the mouth.”

“While Westerners are learning what each separate part of the face looks like — a strategy that could be useful in populations where hair and eye colour vary dramatically, mainland Chinese use a more global strategy, using information about how the features are arranged,” said Tan.

“Meanwhile British-born Chinese use a mixture of both techniques suggesting an increased familiarity with other-race faces which enhances their recognition abilities.”

The ability to recognise different faces may have social and evolutionary advantages. Human faces provide vital information about a person’s identity and characteristics such as gender, age, health and attractiveness.

The team used specialised eye tracking technology to investigate the visual strategies used to recognise photographs of faces.

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