You Never Forget A Face

Not Really. But researchers at Vanderbilt University have found that you do remember faces better than other kinds of images.

"Our results show that we can store more faces than other objects in our visual short-term memory," the study's author said. "We believe this happens because of the special way faces are stored in memory. "How much you can fit in a bag depends on how well you pack it. In the same way, our expertise in 'packaging' faces means that we can remember more of them."

Study participants studied up to five faces on a screen. A single face was later presented and participants decided if this was a face that was part of the original display. For a comparison, the process was repeated with other objects, like watches or cars. It turned out that participants were much better identifying correct faces than other objects.

The researchers believe that our experience with faces explains this advantage. This theory is supported by the fact that the advantage was only obtained for faces encoded in the upright orientation, with which we are most familiar. Faces that were viewed upside-down were not remembered any better than other objects.

It's easy to understand why a special ability to remember faces would evolve in social animals like humans. "I know you! You're a friend, or enemy, or ..."

Now if only we had evolved the ability to remember where we put the car keys!

PB

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