I Never Forget A Face

There are some fortunate people who tell me that they never forget a face. Unfortunately, I’m not so adept, although faces are easier than names. This is partially an age thing, but I have to admit that it was always a problem and that I’m a fan of nametags. Note though that these should be worn on the right and not the left side so when you proffer your right hand for a warm shake, your tag moves forward into full view of the person you're greeting who most likely will welcome a clear view of your tag.

However, I have never found that race has been an issue in recognizing faces although it is supposed to be. Now again, when it comes to names, that is a different issue. But back to the usual situation, which has been investigated by Fu et al who took a group of 40 Chinese undergrads and checked out how they look at new Chinese and Caucasian faces.

The 40 undergrads were given 40 photos of a 50:50 mix of Chinese and Caucasian faces to study and their eye movements tracked. The idea was to ascertain their areas of interest with the faces. The areas of interest were the eyes, nose, and mouth.

To me the results were surprising. When they looked at a Caucasian image they spent a lot of time on the eyes compared to the nose and mouth. Now when they looked at a picture of a Chinese face, they spent more time on the nose and mouth than the eyes compared to the Caucasian image.

Why was this? No real explanation was given and it suggests loads of other experiments. For example, would the behavior switch if Caucasian students were looking at faces? I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next installment, chewing our fingernails with impatience.

  1. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0037688

Leave a Reply