Never Forget a Face

Challenge


Have you ever thought about how much information is in a person’s face? When you see a face, your brain processes their features, wrinkles and moles, and associates them with your memories — all without you even trying.

It might feel effortless, but your brain is actually completing a complicated task. Your brain processes a face much differently than it processes an object, even though a face might seem like just a nose, two eyes, and a mouth.

Both the right and left hemispheres of your brain are responsible for facial recognition. But, when you see a face you know, part of your right brain called the right middle temporal gyrus lights up.

There’s evidence that we may recognize happy people more easily, too. Several brain regions increase signals in response to a happy face.

Some people just aren’t good at remembering names. Unfortunately, as we age, this brain function declines. The inability to recognize people’s faces is also a feature of dementia. It’s called “facial memory deficit.”

How can you make sure you never forget a face? Be proactive about taking note of people’s names instead of relying on your brain to do it for you.

Next time you visit your local supermarket or coffee shop, play a name game. Introduce yourself to the person behind the counter. As them to repeat their name a second time, then ask them to write it down for you.

This game might sound silly, but people are usually excited that you want to remember them. On your way home, think about the unique features of their face that you can associate with their name. Next time you visit the supermarket or coffee shop, greet them by name. You’ll probably be greeted with a smile!

References

  • Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., & Alvarez, G. A. (2011). A review of visual memory capacity: Beyond individual items and toward structured representations. Journal of Vision, 11(5), 4–4. doi: 10.1167/11.5.4
  • Ferris, S. H., Crook, T., Clark, E., Mccarthy, M., & Rae, D. (1980). Facial Recognition Memory Deficits in Normal Aging and Senile Dementia. Journal of Gerontology, 35(5), 707–714. doi: 10.1093/geronj/35.5.707
  • Russell, R., Chatterjee, G., & Nakayama, K. (2012). Developmental prosopagnosia and super-recognition: No special role for surface reflectance processing. Neuropsychologia, 50(2), 334–340. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.12.004
  • Wilson, R. S., Kaszniak, A. W., Bacon, L. D., Fox, J. H., & Kelly, M. P. (1982). Facial Recognition Memory in Dementia. Cortex, 18(3), 329–336. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(82)80031-2