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10. Other People: Hacks 93–100 > 93. Understand What Makes Faces Special

Understand What Makes Faces Special

We have dedicated neural machinery for recognizing faces from just a few basic features arranged in the right configuration.

It’s an important evolutionary skill to be able to quickly and efficiently recognize faces that are important to us. This allowed our ancestors to conform to the social hierarchies of the groups in which they lived, to keep checks on who was stronger and who was weaker than they were, and to track potential mates.

While faces are very important things to recognize, they are also all remarkably similar. Eyes, noses, and mouths—and it is these features that we rely on most when we discriminate between faces—all look pretty much alike, and the ratios of the spacing between them do not leave too much scope for differing widely either. Nevertheless, it is remarkably easy for us to distinguish between faces.


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