The average person has about 5,000 faces – from family and friends to the cashier of your local store. Most people easily recognize familiar faces, even in low-quality or old photos. We even recognize familiar faces when we don’t know someone’s name or what we know about that person.
We take that for granted. But is our ability to recognize faces disrupted now that everyone has donned a mouth mask that covers the chin, lips, cheeks and nose?
We checked it on our site A recent study They compared the effect of face masks (which cover the lower part of the face) with the effect of sunglasses (which cover the eye area). Although face masks cover a lot of our faces, we’ve seen that people find it surprisingly easy to spot the familiar faces behind the masks. This indicates the remarkable flexibility of this human skill.
Familiar face recognition is a useful skill that you need on a daily basis, but recognition of unfamiliar faces is also important, for example in the context of forensics and security management. We researched familiar and unfamiliar faces.
We showed the participants pairs of portraits, and we asked them if the faces belong to the same person or to different people. One image was always presented without concealment, the other image was not concealed or concealed with sunglasses or a face mask. Participants performed the task on both familiar faces (photos of celebrities) and unfamiliar faces.
Although the mouth masks cover a large portion of the face, we saw that participants recognized the familiar faces in the masks with nearly 90% accuracy – not worse than the results of sunglasses, but only slightly worse than the exposed faces.
These results show how good we are at recognizing familiar faces. The study only included comparisons of portraits. Every day Life We may also look at the rest of the body, gait and clothing to further complement the information. This increases accuracy.
In the case of unfamiliar faces, both masks and sunglasses reduced recognition accuracy. Face masks reduced performance the most, but slightly less than sunglasses. Identifying unfamiliar faces, either with or without masks or sunglasses, is generally difficult and error-prone.
Some people are still very good at it. Professor Josh Davis (University of Greenwich) has also requested so-called “super-recognition tools” – people who excel at facial recognition – to perform the tasks. The super identifiers were also hindered by the masks, but they performed in all tasks much better than people without this ability.
So the ability to recognize familiar faces seldom diminishes when those faces are hidden. How do we recognize familiar faces well? People may be born with an innate preference for stimuli that point to faces. We are so determined to find faces in our environment that we recognize facial-like patterns in objects or clouds – a phenomenon known as facial paridolia.
Our ancestors who were able to recognize faces well might have an evolutionary advantage if they were able to distinguish friend from foe. In this way, they knew those approaching and those avoiding.
To recognize familiar faces, you need to learn how the same face might look in different encounters and how a face differs from other familiar faces. This makes unfamiliar faces more difficult to recognize. With unfamiliar faces, we don’t know how a face differs with posture, expression, lighting, or age – or how it differs from other, unfamiliar faces.
How does that explain our surprisingly good performance in recognizing masked faces? We might have seen familiar faces often enough to recognize them with limited information. We may have seen the face “hidden” before or our representation of a full face is too strong he is Limiting the visual features is not an issue.
With unfamiliar faces, we cannot rely on past experiences with a face. The premium recognition tools are the exception. While it is unclear why it is so good at recognizing faces, there is some evidence that the ability to recognize faces may be hereditary.
There are currently 7.4 billion faces on this planet. While we will encounter only a small fraction of them, our ability to remember and recognize familiar faces is an evolutionary skill dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Our research shows that this skill is hardly affected when the faces involved are masked by the mouth mask.
This article appeared earlier Conversation.