How do we recognize faces and why do some do it better than others?

We can recognize and remember hundredsindividuals, but why do some do it better than others? It is no secret that there are people who recognize and remember faces well. They easily recognize the person whom they saw only once and for a short time. At the same time, other people experience serious difficulties in remembering and recognizing faces in everyday situations. These are two extremes. Most of us are between them. But why are there such huge individual differences? How do these abilities affect us and where did they come from? According to recent scientific studies, our ability to recognize and remember faces depends on the type of person.

In the process of facial recognition, the brain first of all pays attention to gender and age


  • 1 How does the brain recognize faces?
  • 2 Why do we recognize faces differently?
  • 3 Alarm and face recognition
  • 4 What is the relationship between personality type and facial recognition?

How does the brain recognize faces?

The human brain is designed so that wewe recognize faces almost instantly. One look and now we have already determined whether this person is familiar to us, whether this man or woman is, how old he or she is, and so on. However, some parameters our brain determines faster than others.

According to the results of the study,published in the journal Nature Communications, the brain primarily determines gender and age. It takes the brain about 70 milliseconds. Scientists observed brain activity during facial recognition and found that after 30 milliseconds, the brain recognizes the unique traits inherent in each of us. Experts note that these parameters are quite simple to calculate.

But whether a person is familiar to us or not, the brain understandsthe very last moment. The brain recognizes the faces of people whom we well know from any angle and with any hairstyle. And if we are shown two photographs of the same person with different hairstyles, the brain will be inclined to perceive them as two different people. Moreover, the sequence in the face recognition chain of the brain is always the same: first sex, age, emotions, identity, and only then the brain begins to “think” whether this person is familiar to us or not.

Why do we recognize faces differently?

Differences in facial recognition may reflect structural differences in the brain. For example, in people with prosopagnosia, communication between brain regions may be reduced during facial recognition.

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt suffers from prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia is a facial perception disorder in which the ability to recognize faces is lost. At the same time, a person distinguishes and recognizes objects.

Scientists also suggest that abilityface recognition is associated with general cognitive abilities, such as memory or visual processing of information. However, these results are not accurate. Only a few studies confirm the relationship between face recognition and certain cognitive abilities. Other studies have not revealed the presence of such a relationship.

Cognitive abilities are called higher brain functions - this is our ability to think, speak, learn. In other words, it is cognitive skills that make a person a person.

Another possible explanation is thatindividual differences in face recognition are directly related to a person’s personality or his social and emotional interaction with others. It is also interesting that the ability to recognize faces is associated with the severity of anxiety and sympathy.

Not everyone is able to recognize faces equally well.

Empathy reflects a person’s ability to understandand share feelings with others. In 2010, during a study, scientists asked volunteers to try to recall the identity of several individuals who were shown one at a time. Later they were presented with the same faces mixed together with new faces. The subjects were asked to indicate whether each person was “old” (learned) or “new”. The researchers found that those who spoke of themselves as a person with a pronounced ability to empathy did a much better job of recognizing faces than those who had less empathic skills.

Empathy is the ability to empathize with another person and understand his emotional state.

Alarm and face recognition

Experts agree that the levelanxiety affects the ability to recognize faces. So, people experiencing social anxiety do worse with this. It is also interesting that recent studies have shown that the relationship between anxiety and facial recognition is more common in women.

Situational anxiety can also play its partrole. For example, face recognition may be impaired when an eyewitness is asked to try to identify the face of a suspect that he sees in a stressful situation.

You will find even more interesting facts about the functioning of the brain on our channel in Yandex.Zen.

How is personality type and facial recognition related?

We recently wrote about differences in brain function inpeople with different types of personality. So, scientists came to the conclusion that the brain of extroverts - people who enjoy communication and, in general, lead a more active social life, is different from the brain of introverts - people who prefer to interact with others as little as possible. The differences between introverts and extroverts are in the reward system - when communicating with introverts and extroverts, various neurotransmitters - dopamine and acetylcholine - are released.

The brain of extroverts and introverts works differently

Thus, it’s no secret to anyone thatextroverts are well versed in social information and more involved in social activities than introverts. Therefore, experts do not exclude that extroverts better recognize faces. In a recent study, scientists collected data from a group of 20 extroverted and 23 highly interverted volunteers (from an initial sample of 339 volunteers). They found that extroverts are much better at face recognition than introverts.

However, scientists do not fully understand the importance andthe reason for the findings. It may be that extraversion contributes to superior face recognition or that people who recognize faces better become more extrovert as a result.

If so, then the person’s inability to learn andrecognizing faces can make it more reserved. This will help him avoid potentially awkward social situations. In addition, introverted people as a whole can meet fewer people and therefore may not acquire good facial recognition skills.

Do you recognize faces well or are experiencing certain difficulties? Share your stories in the comments and our Telegram chat.

In the future, scientists intend to study the impact onthe ability to recognize faces of individual factors, such as altruism and optimism. Perhaps experts will soon find even more explanations for why some of us recognize faces better than others.