Face Recognition Research May Aid Therapies For Prosopagnosia And Autism
In daily life, we recognize faces both holistically and also "analytically" - that is, picking out individual parts, such as eyes or nose. But while the brain uses analytical processing for all kinds of objects - cars, houses, animals - "holistic processing is thought to be especially critical to face recognition," says Liu.
To isolate holistic processing as the key to face recognition, the researchers first measured the ability of study participants - 337 male and female students - to remember whole faces, using a task in which they had to select studied faces and flowers from among unfamiliar ones.
The next two tasks measured performance in tasks that mark holistic processing. The composite-face effect (CFE) shows up when two faces are split horizontally and stuck together. It's easier to identify the top half-face when it's misaligned with the bottom one than when the two halves are fitted smoothly together. "That's because our brain automatically combines them to form a new" - and unfamiliar -"face," says Liu: evidence of holistic processing. The other marker of holistic processing is the whole-part effect (WPE). In this one, people are shown a face, then asked to recognize a part of it - say, the nose. They do better when the feature is presented within the whole face than when it stands on its own among other noses: again, we remember the nose integrated into the whole face. The researchers also assessed participants' general intelligence.
The results: Those participants who scored higher on CFE and WPE - that is, who did well in holistic processing - also performed better at the first task of recognizing faces. But there was no link between facial recognition and general intelligence, which is made up of various cognitive processes - a suggestion that face processing is unique.
"Our findings partly explains why some never forget faces, while others misrecognize their friends and relatives frequently," says Liu. That's why the research holds promise for therapies for that second category of people, who may suffer disorders such as prosopagnosia (face blindness) and autism. Knowing that the mind receives a face as one whole thing and not as a collection of individual parts, "we may train people on holistic processing to improve their ability in recognizing faces," Liu says.
Source: EurekAlert!, the online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Association for Psychological Science. "Face Recognition Research May Aid Therapies For Prosopagnosia And Autism." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 5 Dec. 2011. Web.
25 Jun. 2017. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/238644.php>
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, December 5). "Face Recognition Research May Aid Therapies For Prosopagnosia And Autism." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
Contact our news editors
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact our editorial team, please see our contact page.
Copyright Medical News Today: Excluding email/sharing services explicitly offered on this website, material published on Medical News Today may not be reproduced, or distributed without the prior written permission of Medilexicon International Ltd. Please contact us for further details.