Our Facial Recognition Prowess

Don't I know you? Humans have an extraordinary talent for recognizing and remembering subtle details that distinguish one mug from another. The trick may be in the way our brains encode "face space."

Most of us have a powerful ability to recognize faces, and yet we hardly ever take note of it. We can commit a face to memory with a single glance, and even if we see that face only once its memory can stay fresh for years. The faces we remember may differ only in subtle tweaks of geometry: the ratio of distances between the eyes and the mouth, for example. A small fraction of people, however, cannot recognize faces—even the faces of their parents, spouses, and children. Prosopagnosia, as ...

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