Putting culture under the spotlight reveals universal information use for face recognition

Caldara, R., Zhou, X. and Miellet, S. (2010) Putting culture under the spotlight reveals universal information use for face recognition. PLoS ONE, 5(3), e9708. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009708)

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Publisher's URL: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0009708

Abstract

Background: Eye movement strategies employed by humans to identify conspecifics are not universal. Westerners predominantly fixate the eyes during face recognition, whereas Easterners more the nose region, yet recognition accuracy is comparable. However, natural fixations do not unequivocally represent information extraction. So the question of whether humans universally use identical facial information to recognize faces remains unresolved. Methodology/Principal Findings: We monitored eye movements during face recognition of Western Caucasian (WC) and East Asian (EA) observers with a novel technique in face recognition that parametrically restricts information outside central vision. We used ‘Spotlights’ with Gaussian apertures of 2°, 5° or 8° dynamically centered on observers’ fixations. Strikingly, in constrained Spotlight conditions (2°, 5°) observers of both cultures actively fixated the same facial information: the eyes and mouth. When information from both eyes and mouth was simultaneously available when fixating the nose (8°), as expected EA observers shifted their fixations towards this region. Conclusions/Significance: Social experience and cultural factors shape the strategies used to extract information from faces, but these results suggest that external forces do not modulate information use. Human beings rely on identical facial information to recognize conspecifics, a universal law that might be dictated by the evolutionary constraints of nature and not nurture.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Caldara, Professor Roberto and Miellet, Dr Sebastien
Authors: Caldara, R., Zhou, X., and Miellet, S.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Published Online:01 January 2010
Copyright Holders:© 2010 Caldara et al
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 2010 5(3): e9708
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
449881Social interaction - a cognitive-neurosciences approachSimon GarrodEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/E020933/1Cognitive Neuroimaging & Neuroengineering Technologies