Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Face transplant


We often identify people using face images. This is true in occupational settings such as passport control as well as in everyday social environments. Mapping between images and identities assumes that facial appearance is stable within certain bounds. For example, a person’s apparent age, gender and ethnicity change slowly, if at all. It also assumes that deliberate changes beyond these bounds (i.e., disguises) would be easy to spot. Hyper-realistic face masks overturn these assumptions by allowing the wearer to look like an entirely different person. If unnoticed, these masks break the link between facial appearance and personal identity, with clear implications for applied face recognition. However, to date, no one has assessed the realism of these masks, or specified conditions under which they may be accepted as real faces. Herein, we examined incidental detection of unexpected but attended hyper-realistic masks in both photographic and live presentations. Experiment 1 (UK; n = 60) revealed no evidence for overt detection of hyper-realistic masks among real face photos, and little evidence of covert detection. Experiment 2 (Japan; n = 60) extended these findings to different masks, mask-wearers and participant pools. In Experiment 3 (UK and Japan; n = 407), passers-by failed to notice that a live confederate was wearing a hyper-realistic mask and showed limited evidence of covert detection, even at close viewing distance (5 vs. 20 m). Across all of these studies, viewers accepted hyper-realistic masks as real faces. Specific countermeasures will be required if detection rates are to be improved.

Concepts: Face transplant, Identity, Mask


When people are faced with opinions different from their own, they often revise their own opinions to match those held by other people. This is known as the social-conformity effect. Although the immediate impact of social influence on people’s decision making is well established, it is unclear whether this reflects a transient capitulation to public opinion or a more enduring change in privately held views. In an experiment using a facial-attractiveness rating task, we asked participants to rate each face; after providing their rating, they were informed of the rating given by a peer group. They then rerated the same faces after 1, 3, or 7 days or 3 months. Results show that individuals' initial judgments are altered by the differing opinions of other people for no more than 3 days. Our findings suggest that because the social-conformity effect lasts several days, it reflects a short-term change in privately held views rather than a transient public compliance.

Concepts: Decision making, Critical thinking, Social psychology, Face transplant, Peer group, Rod Stewart, Opinion, Peer pressure


Mechanisms enabling men to identify women likely to engage in extra-pair copulations (EPCs) would be advantageous in avoiding cuckoldry. Men’s judgments of female sexual faithfulness often show high consensus, but accuracy appears poor. We examined whether accuracy of these judgments made to images of women could be improved through i) employing a forced choice task, in which men were asked to select the more faithful of two women and/or ii) providing men with full person images. In Experiment 1, men rated 34 women, for whom we had self-reported EPC behavior, on faithfulness, trustworthiness or attractiveness from either face or full person photographs. They then completed a forced choice task, selecting the more faithful of two woman from 17 pairs of images, each containing one woman who had reported no EPCs and one who had reported two or more EPCs. Men were unable to rate faithfulness with any accuracy, replicating previous findings. However, when asked to choose the more faithful of two women, they performed significantly above chance, although the ability to judge faithfulness at above-chance levels did not generalize to all pairs of women. Although there was no significant difference in accuracy for face and full person image pairs, only judgments from faces were significantly above chance. In Experiment 2, we showed that this accuracy for faces was repeatable in a new sample of men. We also showed that individual variation in accuracy was unrelated to variation in preferences for faithfulness in a long-term partner. Overall, these results show that men’s judgments of faithfulness made from faces of unfamiliar women may contain a kernel of truth.

Concepts: Female, Statistical significance, Gender, Woman, Choice, Face transplant, Women's suffrage, Rod Stewart


Photo-ID is widely used in security settings, despite research showing that viewers find it very difficult to match unfamiliar faces. Here we test participants with specialist experience and training in the task: passport-issuing officers. First, we ask officers to compare photos to live ID-card bearers, and observe high error rates, including 14% false acceptance of ‘fraudulent’ photos. Second, we compare passport officers with a set of student participants, and find equally poor levels of accuracy in both groups. Finally, we observe that passport officers show no performance advantage over the general population on a standardised face-matching task. Across all tasks, we observe very large individual differences: while average performance of passport staff was poor, some officers performed very accurately - though this was not related to length of experience or training. We propose that improvements in security could be made by emphasising personnel selection.

Concepts: Error, Performance, Activity, Task, Face transplant, Match, Identity document, Rock Action Records


Social networking sites such as Facebook represent a unique and dynamic social environment.

Concepts: Human behavior, Web 2.0, Face transplant, Social network service, MySpace, Instant messaging, Facebook, Online social networking


In the research reported here, we found evidence of the cheerleader effect-people seem more attractive in a group than in isolation. We propose that this effect arises via an interplay of three cognitive phenomena: (a) The visual system automatically computes ensemble representations of faces presented in a group, (b) individual members of the group are biased toward this ensemble average, and © average faces are attractive. Taken together, these phenomena suggest that individual faces will seem more attractive when presented in a group because they will appear more similar to the average group face, which is more attractive than group members' individual faces. We tested this hypothesis in five experiments in which subjects rated the attractiveness of faces presented either alone or in a group with the same gender. Our results were consistent with the cheerleader effect.

Concepts: Scientific method, Cognitive science, Visual system, Individual, Face transplant, Physical attractiveness, Individual rights, Cheerleading


Modularity of face processing is still a controversial issue. Congenital prosopagnosia (cPA), a selective and lifelong impairment in familiar face recognition without evidence of an acquired cerebral lesion, offers a unique opportunity to support this fundamental hypothesis. However, in spite of the pronounced behavioural impairment, identification of a functionally relevant neural alteration in congenital prosopagnosia by electrophysiogical methods has not been achieved so far. Here we show that persons with congenital prosopagnosia can be distinguished as a group from unimpaired persons using magnetoencephalography. Early face-selective MEG-responses in the range of 140 to 200ms (the M170) showed prolonged latency and decreased amplitude whereas responses to another category (houses) were indistinguishable between subjects with congenital prosopagnosia and unimpaired controls. Latency and amplitude of face-selective EEG responses (the N170) which were simultaneously recorded were statistically indistinguishable between subjects with cPA and healthy controls which resolves heterogeneous and partly conflicting results from existing studies. The complementary analysis of categorical differences (evoked activity to faces minus evoked activity to houses) revealed that the early part of the 170ms response to faces is altered in subjects with cPA. This finding can be adequately explained in a common framework of holistic and part-based face processing. Whereas a significant brain-behaviour correlation of face recognition performance and the size of the M170 amplitude is found in controls a corresponding correlation is not seen in subjects with cPA. This indicates functional relevance of the alteration found for the 170ms response to faces in cPA and pinpoints the impairment of face processing to early perceptual stages.

Concepts: Electroencephalography, Face perception, Face, Prosopagnosia, Face transplant, Controversy, Controversies


To identify characteristics of mothers who face difficulties with childrearing.

Concepts: Face, Face transplant


Individuals are quite sensitive to others' appearance cues when forming social evaluations. Cues such as facial emotional resemblance are based on facial musculature and thus dynamic. Cues such as a face’s structure are based on the underlying bone and are thus relatively static. The current research examines the distinction between these types of facial cues by investigating the consistency in social evaluations arising from dynamic versus static cues. Specifically, across four studies using real faces, digitally generated faces, and downstream behavioral decisions, we demonstrate that social evaluations based on dynamic cues, such as intentions, have greater variability across multiple presentations of the same identity than do social evaluations based on static cues, such as ability. Thus, although evaluations of intentions vary considerably across different instances of a target’s face, evaluations of ability are relatively fixed. The findings highlight the role of facial cues' consistency in the stability of social evaluations.

Concepts: Sociology, Emotion, Face, Faces, Face transplant


The role of face typicality in face recognition is well established, but it is unclear whether face typicality is important for face evaluation. Prior studies have focused mainly on typicality’s influence on attractiveness, although recent studies have cast doubt on its importance for attractiveness judgments. Here, we argue that face typicality is an important factor for social perception because it affects trustworthiness judgments, which approximate the basic evaluation of faces. This effect has been overlooked because trustworthiness and attractiveness judgments have a high level of shared variance for most face samples. We show that for a continuum of faces that vary on a typicality-attractiveness dimension, trustworthiness judgments peak around the typical face. In contrast, perceived attractiveness increases monotonically past the typical face, as faces become more like the most attractive face. These findings suggest that face typicality is an important determinant of face evaluation.

Concepts: Effect, Perception, Philosophy of perception, Face transplant, Physical attractiveness, Concepts in aesthetics