Research into face recognition

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Research into face recognition

Face recognition is a special form of pattern recognition, which allows us to perform the highly adaptive task of identifying individuals and picking up information from their expressions.

In their experiment, Bradshaw & Wallace used Identikit faces in pairs. Participants were asked to decide whether the faces were the same or different. They found that participants made quicker decisions if more features of the face were different. Bradshaw & Wallace (1971) concluded that faces were recognised by a bottom-up process. In other words, by processing features such as eyes and nose separately we can build up a representation of the whole face.

Research into face recognition

This explanation is rather simple. Research from Sergent (1984) suggests that we process faces as a whole and not by serial processing of individual features: Often the spatial relationship between features is as important as the features themselves.

This notion is supported by research into Identikit faces made from slices of different celebrities' faces. It is harder to identify the celebrities if the sections of their faces are closely aligned because we see the two parts as one whole. If the sections are misaligned, identification is much easier because we do not view them as a whole (Young et al., 1987).

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It seems that theconfiguration of the face is particularly important when we process it. This could include three aspects (Bruce, 1995):

  1. spatial relationship between features (e.g. distance between nose and mouth)
  2. interaction between features (e.g. how the shape of the nose affects perception of mouth shape)
  3. holistic processing of faces (i.e. faces are not processed serially).

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