June 18, 2009

Face plus name = recognition

Putting a name to a face may be key to the brain's expertise in recognizing faces, U.S. researchers say.

The study, scheduled to be published in Psychological Science, suggests the human tendency to see people and faces as individuals may explain why people are such experts at recognizing other people.

This new research adds to the evidence that the brain processes faces differently -- than objects -- because of our expertise with them. It also tells us what it is about our experience with faces that leads us to treat them holistically, study co-author Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University in Nashville says in a statement. This knowledge may be useful in the development of training protocols for individuals with difficulties in face perception, such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Gautier says it is generally agreed humans recognize faces holistically, which is not generally how objects are recognized. People find it almost impossible to attend to only one part of a face and ignore the rest in the way a car is recognized by its grill or tail lights, the study says.