Washington D.C.: A new study has revealed that your face is unique as no two faces are the same.
For the very first time, researchers have been able to show that the causes of congenital face blindness can be traced back to an early stage in the perceptual process. These findings are crucial, not just for our understanding of face recognition, but also because they allow us to understand the processes behind the recognition of any visually presented object.
Each face is unique and forms a crucial part of a person's identity and interpersonal communication. It is the unique details of our facial features that allow us to recognize one another.
However, the situation is different for people with congenital prosopagnosia or face blindness. People affected by this condition are unable to use facial features to identify the person in front of them. In everyday life, people with facial blindness are often able to compensate for this inability to recognize others by instead focusing on, for example, a person's characteristic appearance, hair style, or gait.
However, the true extent of the impairment becomes evident in social situations, when the affected person has to interact with others, or when the nature of their job (e.g. as a teacher or police officer) means they have to be able to distinguish between and identify many different people. It is estimated that approximately one to two percent of people are affected by this condition.
Until now, the cause of facial blindness was assumed to be associated with the later stages of the perceptual process. These are the stages involved in converting facial information into abstract code for long-term storage.
Team leader Andreas Luschow said that they were able to show that even the earliest face-selective responses, those recorded approximately 170 milliseconds after seeing a face, are altered in people with congenital prosopagnosia; "we were also able to show that these changes are closely linked to their deficit in recognizing faces."
The study appears in PLOS ONE.