How We Learn How To See Faces

A face is the most distinctive feature of a human being. In this very interesting piece, Virginia Hughes questions how we learn to see and distinguish faces. Basing herself on several scientific studies, she shows that one of the first things that we learn how to recognize when we are babies is the outline of a face. She points out that our brain only needs 200 milliseconds to understand a face, due to its unique, though simple, appearance: two eyes, a nose and a mouth. However, science has not yet been able to explain what precise neurological combination makes us “facial experts”. Studies performed on children who had experienced cataracts problems seemed to suggest that the earlier children were able to see faces, the better they were able to immediately recognize them amongst other objects. It would thus be a time factor: seeing faces since we are born would be the definitive factor to learning how to see faces. However, the different studies are not conclusive and the author seems to suggest that, more than biology, maybe what makes us recognize faces so easily is simply sociology. We are humans, and the first thing we look at is someone’s face. Undeniably, faces are the definitive factor of our interaction with others.

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