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Using body identification when faces won't do

squintYou'd know that face anywhere, but what about that [fill in the name of another body part]? A study published in Psychological Science examines the way we use body identification to recognize a person when his or her facial features are obscured.

(As a dance critic, who sits in the dark far away from a proscenium stage looking at people often with matching costumes and identical hairdos, I look for relative height, shape of feet and quality of movement to distinguish performers when two or more faces look alike.)

In several experiments with college students, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas selected photographs using face-recognition algorithms to find images of people with little useful identifying information in their faces. From the study:

Recognition of the face alone in these cases was near chance level, but recognition of the person was accurate. Accuracy in identifying the person without the face was identical to that in identifying the whole person.

Although participants reported relying more heavily on facial features than body characteristics, eye-tracking devices showed that the gaze was drawn to bodies of subjects in photos whose subjects whose faces provided little distinguishing information.

Previously: Researchers show infants’ sophisticated ability to process faces
Via Science Daily
Photo by Travis Hornung

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