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Recognition at first glance
Date:7/1/2010

whole face is upside down, but strikingly grotesque when the face is right side up. "The faces in which the eyes and the mouth were rotated 180 degrees look grotesque - but only if we see them the right side up. Upside-down the differences between a normal face and a 'thacherized' face are hardly recognizable", explains Christian Wallraven, one of the scientists involved in the study. The effect can be explained by the lack of processing capabilities for locally rotated facial features when the face is turned upside down. The holistic processing mechanisms allow us to recognize fine changes in the arrangement of the separate facial parts. If the whole face is rotated 180 degrees, this ability gets lost.

The usual recognition mechanisms do not function with either inverted faces or with the faces of foreign species. The scientists discovered that the Thatcher illusion in macaque monkeys only works for the faces of their conspecifics, while they paid no special attention to the extremely grotesque human faces. Vice versa it behaved the same with humans for whom the manipulated monkey faces remained inconspicuous. "It must have been of great advantage for us as well as for our next relatives, the monkeys, in the course of the evolution to recognize especially the faces of our kind and also to develop similar processing mechanisms." Wallraven sums up. Besides, the ability to recognize faces on the first sight, the holistic processing opens another possibility: the identification of different conspecifics with in no time.


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Contact: Dr. Christoph Dahl
christoph.dahl@tuebingen.mpg.de
49-707-160-1610
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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