Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Face to Face
22 December 2012

Face to Face

Friend or foe? Happy or angry? Male or female? Being able to quickly and accurately answer these questions when someone approaches is undoubtedly important for social interaction today. During our evolutionary history it may have meant the difference between life and death. Eye tracking studies show that when considering a face adults focus mainly on the area at the bridge of the nose, just below the eyes (red zone, bottom row) despite the fact that scanning around the eyes, nose and mouth would actually provide more useful information (red/yellow areas, upper row). This strategy may have evolved as a short cut, enabling the brain to make a rapid, educated guess about identity, emotion or gender. People with certain conditions, such as autism, struggle to recognise facial cues. This research may help to understand their perspective and improve treatment in the future.

Written by Sarah McLusky

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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