Friday, February 17, 2017

Recognizing Faces, 3

Human brains learn to discern among the types of faces they see the most frequently. Studies at England's University of Sheffield suggest that babies are born with a broad idea of what a face is. They start out with the ability to recognize a wide range of faces, even among races or species different from their own. Fast forward to the age of nine months, however, and processing of faces narrows based on faces the babies see most often. For example, if infants are exposed mainly to Asian faces, they will gradually become less skilled at discerning among different faces of other races. Study results suggest that broad exposure to races and other species in infancy may prevent that loss of ability. The National Geographic News reported on studies that focused on face processing—the ability to recognize and categorize faces, determine identity and gender, and read emotions. Six-month-old study participants were able to recognize the faces of individuals of a different races as well as different species (e.g., monkey faces). Infants who received visual training for this retained the ability. Infants with no training lost the skill by the time they were nine months old. Their findings suggest that, in humans, this skill is another instance of "use it or lose it." More next week.

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