Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And the Winner is...

Emily S.! (And no...that's NOT her picture)

Emily was the lucky participant whose name was drawn to win the fabulous Therapist in a Box prize from last evening's AP Night festivities. Like many others attending, she participated in our mini-research project on facial recognition.

All participants were shown the image at right. They were asked to determine which of the two images on the left best resembled him.
Two-thirds of participants chose the lower image (labeled "B" on the wall chart used), while only one-third selected the top image. Neither answer is more "correct" because each is simply a composite image created by "mirroring" one half of the face in the original photograph. So why did people prefer the "mirrored" left side to the right?
Here's the presumed explanation: The right half of the brain is responsible for interpreting information from our left visual field (i.e. the left side of the man's face). It is also more frequently used for facial recognition and emotional interpretation. When you look at the two possible choices, the part of your brain that is most adept at recognizing faces detects a match in the lower photograph: "here's that same left side"! It does not see a "match" in the upper photo because your right brain was not studying that part of the original photo (that was your analytical left brain).
Of course, we can all "see" that the images are equally representative of the man. But thanks to your wonderful brain...it's not necessarily what we perceive.

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