Are Faces Special?
In 1989 Ellis and Young examined the question â€œAre faces special?â€ They concluded that the process of spatial recognition is special but not unique, this will be further examined.
Why Faces Are Special?
Three main reasons have been put forward to support the assumption that faces are special. These are
1. Face recognition has a different form of analysis to object recognition
2. Brain-imaging studies show the fusiform gyrus to be apparently specialized for face processing
3. Research on brain damaged patients.
Face Recognition Has a Different Form of Analysis to Object Recognition
Farah (1990,1994) put forward a two-process model of object recognition ...view middle of the document...
When full faces had been learned, the expected finding of advantageous recognition of holistic presentations was replicated (Exp. 1). However, when only facial parts had been learned (Exp. 2), this effect was reduced and even reversed, indicating that wholistic superiority with both sorts of faces depends on holistic learning strategies.
Fusiform Gyrus is apparently specialized for face processing
Recent fMRI experiments demonstrate the existence of an area of inferior temporal cortex which responds to faces: its neurons fire whenever the subject is shown an image of a face. It has been dubbed the Fusiform Face Area (FFA), and has been among the most powerful and promising pieces of evidence for the uniqueness of face recognition.
Evidence for Fusiform Gyrus
Kanwisher et al (1997) identified an area in the fusiform gyrus that showed increased activation when subjects were shown faces as opposed to other common objects. Stronger responses in this Fusiform Face Area were found for intact over scrambled images of faces, frontal views of faces over frontal views of houses, and three-quarter views of faces (hair covered) over pictures of hands. These trials demonstrated that activity in the FFA does not reflect general image processing, visual attention, or subordinate-level classification, leaving Kanwisher and her colleagues to conclude that the FFA is selectively involved in face perception.
Similar findings have been repeated since by Pelphrey et al (2003) who used fMRI while participants viewed faces and common objects, finding that face activated areas were localized to the fusiform and inferior temporal gyri and adjacent cortex.
Research from Patients with Brain Damage
Perhaps the most intriguing neurological research in face recognition consists of case studies of individuals with damage to regions of the brain that are important in visual processing. Researchers have studied patients with various types of visual agnosia, a range of disorders typically marked by an inability to name objects. One variety of visual agnosia is prosopagnosia â€“ the inability to specifically recognize faces but perform normally on other visual recognition tasks. The...