Why You're Able to Spot a Friend in a Crowd, Even When You Can't See Their Face

Posted on October 21, 2013

Have you ever surprised yourself by correctly recognizing a friend in a crowd, far, far away? Even if her face isn’t at all visible, there’s something about the way she’s standing or walking that gives her away instantly. New research by psychologists at the University of Texas-Dallas helps to confirm and explain that very common phenomenon.

In a study published recently in the journal Psychological Science, researchers asked participants to look at photographs of people in different settings and clothing and to match them up, determining which ones were photos of the same person. The photographs in the experiment were specifically chosen because they were hard for a facial-recognition computer program to identify.

The study found that the participants had more success when they could see the bodies of the people in the photographs—and less success when the bodies were less visible but the faces were clearer. In fact, the participants also accurately matched the photos when they could only see the people’s bodies, while the faces were completely blocked out.

Many psychologists and computer scientists have historically studied facial recognition and ignored the larger picture, the authors concluded. They added that there are clear implications here for the technological development of non-human recognizers of faces, as well.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Source material from Pacific Standard Magazine


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