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Study examines how we recognise familiar faces

Neuroscientists at the University of Glasgow looked at what information people retain in their memory when they recall another individual.

Scientists looked at how we recognise familiar faces (Lewis Stickley/PA)
Scientists looked at how we recognise familiar faces (Lewis Stickley/PA)

Scientists have developed a method of constructing 3D facial models using the information stored in a person’s brain when recalling a familiar face.

Neuroscientists at the University of Glasgow looked at what information people retain in their memory when they recognise another individual.

The team studied how their colleagues recognised the faces of other colleagues, examining which facial information they used to identify them from memory.

By reverse engineering the information that characterises someone’s identity, and then mathematically representing it, we were able to render it graphically Professor Philippe Schyns

Through their analysis they designed a methodology able to “crack the code” of what defines visual identity and generate it with a computer program.

The scientists then devised a method which enabled them to reconstruct what information is specific to the identity of an individual in someone else’s memory – with possible applications across AI, gaming technology and eyewitness testimony.

Philippe Schyns, Professor of Visual Cognition at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, said: “It’s difficult to understand what information people store in their memory when they recognise familiar faces.

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The study could have applications for AI and gaming (University of Glasgow/PA)

“But we have developed a tool which has essentially given us a method to do just that.

“By reverse engineering the information that characterises someone’s identity, and then mathematically representing it, we were then able to render it graphically.”

The paper, Modelling Face Memory Reveals Task-Generalizable Representations, is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

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