Navigation Links
MIT: Why we have difficulty recognizing faces in photo negatives

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Humans excel at recognizing faces, but how we do this has been an abiding mystery in neuroscience and psychology. In an effort to explain our success in this area, researchers are taking a closer look at how and why we fail.

A new study from MIT looks at a particularly striking instance of failure: our impaired ability to recognize faces in photographic negatives. The study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, suggests that a large part of the answer might lie in the brain's reliance on a certain kind of image feature.

The work could potentially lead to computer vision systems, for settings as diverse as industrial quality control or object and face detection. On a different front, the results and methodologies could help researchers probe face-perception skills in children with autism, who are often reported to experience difficulties analyzing facial information.

Anyone who remembers the days before digital photography has probably noticed that it's much harder to identify people in photographic negatives than in normal photographs. "You have not taken away any information, but somehow these faces are much harder to recognize," says Pawan Sinha, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the PNAS study.

Sinha has previously studied light and dark relationships between different parts of the face, and found that in nearly every normal lighting condition, a person's eyes appear darker than the forehead and cheeks. He theorized that photo negatives are hard to recognize because they disrupt these very strong regularities around the eyes.

To test this idea, Sinha and his colleagues asked subjects to identify photographs of famous people in not only positive and negative images, but also in a third type of image in which the celebrities' eyes were restored to their original levels of luminance, while the rest of the photo remained in negative.

Subjects had a much easier time recognizing these "contrast chimera" images. According to Sinha, that's because the light/dark relationships between the eyes and surrounding areas are the same as they would be in a normal image.

Similar contrast relationships can be found in other parts of the face, primarily the mouth, but those relationships are not as consistent. "The relationships around the eyes seem to be particularly significant," says Sinha.

Other studies have shown that people with autism tend to focus on the mouths of people they are looking at, rather than the eyes, so the new findings could help explain why autistic people have such difficulty recognizing faces, says Sinha.

The findings also suggest that neuronal responses in the brain may be based on these relationships between different parts of the face. The team found that when they scanned the brains of people performing the recognition task, regions associated with facial processing (the fusiform face areas) were far more active when looking at the contrast chimeras than when looking at pure negatives.


Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. Children with autism dont adapt as readily to unfamiliar faces
2. New method reveals substances on surfaces of any kind
3. US faces burning emissions issue
4. Biocapture surfaces produced for study of brain chemistry
5. Videos extract mechanical properties of liquid-gel interfaces
6. Its all about geometry: Protein contact surfaces hold key to cures
7. Asias odd-ball antelope faces migration crisis
8. Killer pulses help characterize special surfaces
9. Pre-cancerous condition linked to chronic acid reflux faces several hurdles
10. Coating copies microscopic biological surfaces
11. UCSB study finds physical strength, fighting ability revealed in human faces
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/11/2015)... MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical technology company that ... announce that it will be a Sponsor of the ... held November 17-19 in Hamburg , Germany.  ... iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, proven and affordable eClinical ... able to deliver time and cost savings of up to ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... 4, 2015 --> ... published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market - ... 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions market is expected ... 2022. The market is estimated to expand at a ... to 2022. Rising security needs among customers at homes, ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., ... U.S. distribution of its DNA library preparation products, ... Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has ... preparation of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis ... and prognostic applications in cancer and other conditions. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Copper is an essential micronutrient that all ... copper is also toxic to cells. With a $1.3 million award from the ... a systematic study of copper in the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), a ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical ... today announced that the company has set a new quarterly earnings ... on quarter growth posted for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of ... Mexico , with the establishment of an ... --> United Kingdom and Mexico ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its Executive ... Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV racing ... this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the community ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced that its Annual General Meeting of ... Israel time, at the law offices of Goldfarb ... Floor, Tel Aviv, Israel . ... Tamir to the Board of Directors; , election of ... of an amendment to certain terms of options granted to our Chief ...
Breaking Biology Technology: