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!
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences