Why do we remember some faces, while we forget others? It’s done a lot of research on what makes a face stick in the memory, but the reasons are complex.
A wide smile when the picture is taken, for example, helps to make an impression. But can one ensure that photographs of faces already taken automatically become unforgettable?
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States believes that they have managed this. They have developed an algorithm that manipulates images to make them more or less memorable. When the researchers showed the manipulated images to 80 subjects, it turned out that the computer program had managed to make the faces easier and harder to remember. And for more than seven out of ten cases the subjects picked out pictures in line with the program had envisaged.
The research is sponsored by, among others, online giants as Facebook and Google, and precisely social media like Facebook can benefit from the program, according to the researchers, since it is important to stand out in the crowd of photos online.
The algorithm in the program makes it possible to develop an app for your smartphone that can change the image before you upload it and share it with your friends. They probably will not notice that anything has changed, but they will remember you better. The differences will supposedly be so subtle that they do not change appearance significantly; the face will appear as old, young or attractive as before. The face still looks like you, but maybe with a little facelift, says researcher Aude Oliva.
The research team has also created a game where you can test your own memory for faces. Here you can find out how many faces you remember:
Aditya K., Bainbridge, W.A., Torralba, A., Oliva, A.: Modifying the Memorability of Face Photographs. International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2013.
Bainbridge, W. A., Isola, P., Oliva, A.: The intrinsic memorability of face photographs. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 142(4) 2013, 1323-1334.