Why are some people better at recognizing faces than others? Although we encounter faces every day, we know almost nothing about the science behind how we are able to recognize them.
Professor Allison Sekuler, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at McMaster University, and her research group in the Vision & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab study facial recognition using a variety of neuroimaging techniques like electroencephalography or EEG.
“We actually know almost nothing about how it is that we are able to recognize faces to tell who’s friend and who’s foe,” says Sekuler. “Although these are things we deal with every day, and so we think they are very simple, we don’t really understand the science behind them.”
Recently, they have made some discoveries that have helped them to understand one of the key elements that makes someone better at recognizing faces than others. They are hoping to use these discoveries to develop personalized training programs to make everyone good at facial recognition, or at least a bit better, because face perception is so critical to our everyday lives.
These training paradigms would also be extremely helpful to people on the autism spectrum or people who have brain disorders like perceptive agnosia that impair facial recognition.
UPDATE (July 22, 2019): Professor Sekuler is now Vice-President, Research, and the Sandra A. Rotman Chair at Baycrest Health Sciences. Baycrest specializes in research in brain health and aging, two areas where Sekuler contributes deep expertise.