A new study published today in Nature Communications has found that part of the reason comes down to the processes that our brain performs when learning and recognising faces.
During the experiment, participants were shown faces of people that they had never seen before, while lying inside an MRI scanner in the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway University. They were shown some of these faces numerous times from different angles and were asked to indicate whether they had seen that person before or not.
While participants were relatively good at recognising faces once they had seen them a few times, using a new mathematical approach, the scientists found that people's decisions of whether they recognised someone were also dependent on the context in which they encountered the face. If participants had recently seen lots of unfamiliar faces, they were more likely to say that the face they were looking at was unfamiliar, even if they had seen the face several times before and had previously reported that they did recognise the face.
Activity in two areas of the brain matched the way in which the mathematical model predicted people's performance.
"Our study has characterised some of the mathematical processes that are happening in our brain as we do this," said lead author Dr Matthew Apps. "One brain area, called the fusiform face area, seems to be involved in learning new information about faces and increasing their familiarity.
"Another area, called the superior temporal sulcus, we found to have an important role in influencing our report of whether we recognise someone's face, regardless of whether we are actually familiar with them or not. While this seems rather counter-intuitive, it may be an important mechanism for simplifying all the information that we need to process about faces."
"Face recognition is a fundamental social skill, but we show how error prone this process can be. To recognise someone, we become familiar with their face, by learning a little more about what it looks like," said co-author Professor Manos Tsakiris from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway.
"At the same time, we often see people in different contexts. The recognition biases that we measured might give us an advantage in integrating information about identity and social context, two key elements of our social world."
Tanya Gubbay | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering