Face recognition, aka face perception, is the cognitive ability enabling your brain to recognize faces. Furthermore, it relates to the relationship between recognizing faces and other face-processing aspects.
The many facets of face recognition:
1. A specific part of the brain, known as the Fusiform Face Area (FFA), is believed to process face stimuli more than other visual objects. Evidence also suggests that, as part of the human visual system, the Fusiform Face Area also processes categorical data of objects other than faces. Thats why we sometimes experience pareidolia; seeing human faces in non-human objects.
2. Scientists have established that faces are processed as wholes, as opposed to their individual features. Indeed face recognition research has revealed that people recognize pictures of full faces more than facial parts. For example, it’s easier to identify and remember eyes when presented with a face, than eyes presented without a face. When identifying other objects, however, it matters not whether certain features are presented in isolation.
3. A particular brain disorder can cause Prosopagnosia (face blindness) – a face recognition disorder preventing people from identifying faces. Prosopagnosia refers to faces only, as all other visual stimuli undergo normal processing. An estimated two percent of all people suffer from face blindness. Also, because it is usually easier to recognize faces of races familiar to you, you may have already experienced some face blindness. For instance, if your environment comprises mainly Caucasian faces, you may have difficulty identifying Asian faces. This is known as the “Other-Race Effect.”
4. Another face recognition effect is known as the “Inversion Effect.” Faces are unique in that when they are presented upside down, they are very difficult to recognize. The “Margaret Thatcher Effect” is another phenomenon which illustrates how difficult it is to identify distorted features on an inverted face, while these distortions can be easily identified on upright faces.
5. Although we know much more than we did about face recognition processes, advanced computerized face recognition still has a long way to go before it can identify faces accurately. For example, before September 11, 2001 computers could identify many suspects’ faces, but not enough to deem the process reliable. Though computer systems have since improved, they are still not entirely reliable.
To sum up, faces are particularly unique visual stimuli and undergo different processing than all other visual objects. To test your face recognition skills: