About Face

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This article is a small sample from DISCOVER's special issue The Brain.

Essence of a Face

Scientists at the Face Research Lab at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, used shape-analysis software to morph 
Angelina Jolie’s distinctive features—full lips, large eyes, and narrow nostrils—into an “average” face, a combination of 
50 white female faces. (Researchers believe that when we see a face, we compare it with an average face of the same sex, race, and age range.) Following pages: Jolie’s distinctive traits were subtracted from the average (far left) to create an “anti-Jolie” with smaller eyes, flatter eyebrows, and a long jaw. Humans seem to recognize and remember faces this way, by comparing 
the features of each new face to an 
average and filing away the differences in 
a mental “face space.” - Emily Elert

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