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Science Explains How People Look at Faces

May 5, 2017, Author: The Posh Packer

When it comes to recognising individuals, there are a lot of immediately noticeable features and characteristics one picks up on. Some people may have fit bodies, while others are rotund. Some are lean and have long limbs while others are short and stocky. Many people will also have a few distinguishing marks like skin imperfections, hair colour, voice tonality, and the like, all of which help us distinguish each other. These identifying marks are immediately apparent, but it can be argued that the greatest way we distinguish a person is when we look into their face.

Humans largely perceive uniqueness (and beauty) from looking at the face. As such, industries and scientific fields thrive on making a face look more ‘desirable.’ Aside from plastic surgeons and makeup artists, there is even a cosmetic dentist in Liverpool and other locales that focus on making the overall appearance of the face more aesthetically appealing.

But how do humans normally perceive faces?

Inner Workings

Researchers from Harvard University say that there is a specific brain region responsible for facial perception. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers call this the fusiform face area or FFA. Study leader Juan Manuel Contreras claims that the FFA exhibits changing neural activity patterns when people look at faces and try to differentiate them. Notably, race and sex are the top factors for human facial recognition.

Other researchers join the fray. This time, a duo from the University of California-Santa Barbara reveals where people usually look when seeing a face. Getting the ‘best look’ at anyone’s face is achieved when looking just below the eyes, right around the nose area.

This might not sound remarkable (the act itself is almost instinctive), but from this simple act, much of our initial response to a person is formed. According to a hypothesis, a 250-millisecond glance is more than enough for the brain to determine which one of three major reactions – fight, flight, or romantic attraction—is more appropriate. This is interesting since the area in question is relatively featureless. It only covers the entirety of the nose, but the effects on an onlooker’s psyche are evident.

Faces are a wonder to behold, and it shows.