|Can You Recognize a Face with a Single Glance?|
Janet Hsiao, UCSD
How is it that we recognize a face we have seen before? This process is so automatic that we rarely think about how we do it. It is often thought that we can recognize a face in a single glance. Now, a new study has shown that in fact, two glances, i.e., two fixations, are best. Cognitive Scientists Janet Hui-wen Hsiao and Garrison Cottrell from the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center at the University of California, San Diego examined this by showing volunteers frontal-view images of faces, one at a time, and recording their eye movements with an eye tracker. By using the eye tracker, the researchers were able to measure fixation points when the faces were shown (i.e. where on the face the volunteers looked). In addition, the researchers limited the number of fixations that volunteers could make when looking at the faces to one, two, three or an unlimited number, by replacing the face with an average of all of the faces in the study when the number of fixations exceeded the limit. This is done while the eyes are "in flight" to the next fixation - when we are virtually blind until we land at the next spot.
“Heat Map” of fixation locations during study and test. The test phase is when subjects are recognizing a face.