Have you ever looked at a paint-splattered wall or a grainy wooden plank and suddenly noticed a face-like image staring back at you? If so, you’ve experienced how the visual system is especially sensitive to a special class of objects: faces. Our visual system is so sensitive to facial stimuli that we readily perceive face-like qualities in otherwise random patterns.
Face perception is a mundane task that a socially active human may perform hundreds of times in a day. We acquire indispensable information about others, including mood, age, and level of attentiveness, just by looking at their faces. Research shows that we more readily acquire this information by looking at a person’s face than by hearing him or her speak, analyzing the clothing he or she wears, or observing how he or she walks (Bruce & Young, 1986).
One key aspect of face perception is recognition, or our ability to distinguish different faces from one another. People with a condition known as prosopagnosia experience great difficulty with this task and fail to recognize the faces of others. Those with prosopagnosia can still distinguish what is and is not a face, however. The specific impairment of this disorder suggests that the process of face recognition differs from that of nonfacial object recognition.
Under normal circumstances, we find face recognition remarkably simple, but it is also easy to change the circumstances in such a way that recognition becomes much more difficult. You’ll see this illustrated in the Experience section of this ZAPS lab.
Click the “Start Trial” button to begin each trial. You will then see three face images on the screen: one on top, and two side-by-side on the bottom. When the images appear, click on the bottom image that you think is a picture of the same person in the top image.
Your responses are being timed, so click an image as quickly and accurately as possible on each trial.
Before we begin the actual experiment, let’s try three practice trials.
What should you be doing in each trial?
Click or tap a choice to answer the question.
As quickly as possible, click on the bottom image that shows a different person than the top image.
Taking your time, click on the bottom image that shows the same person pictured in the top image.
As quickly as possible, click the bottom image that shows the same person pictured in the top image.
Taking your time, click the bottom image that shows a different person than the top image.