We are designed to remember names better than faces. And science has an explanation

We are designed to remember names better than faces. And science has an explanation, “Hello! How are you? How long!” You have no idea who the person asking you is. As much as you try to remember her facial features , you don’t remember her. The thing is, it sounds like a lot to you. And from the way he talks to you, it is almost certain that you have already met before. But no, your head is not working. You start talking and everything comes like a breath of air to your head. If this happens to you, don’t worry, some people find it more difficult than others to recognize and remember faces.

In fact, there are people who can never remember people’s faces . It is a disorder and science has been in charge of studying it.

Am I a freak if it happens to me? neuropsychology, people who almost never forget a face are called “super recognizers.” But on the other hand, those who never remember have a condition called prosopagnosia , also known as facial blindness. Although there are no general estimates of its prevalence, some studies suggest that between 2 and 2.5% of the population was born with congenital prosopagnosia. Then there are an additional unknown number of people who have acquired it after brain injury or other cases.

But one thing must be made clear: that you cannot easily memorize faces does not mean that have prosopagnosia. Some people have minor difficulties and some have major difficulties. One of the most common problems for those with facial blindness is having difficulty identifying someone they don’t see often or who is in a different environment than usual. However, when the problem becomes significantly noticeable, they have a hard time recognizing their loved ones or even themselves in a mirror.

The explanation. Faces share many characteristics and are therefore more difficult for our brains to distinguish than objects. In fact, studies have shown that faces are so similar that we can only distinguish them by analyzing their differences , such as eye color or color. lip shape. While we can recognize other objects just by looking at a smaller part of them, such as a table leg or a sweater pattern, simply looking at one eye will rarely be enough to recognize a full face.

People regularly underestimate how difficult it is for our brains to perceive an object, animal or person because it is a mechanism that occurs without interruption. “You might think that, since as soon as we open our eyes we recognize things, perception is a simple process, but in reality it is very complex,” explained Roberta Daini, professor of neuropsychology at the University of Milano-Bicocca, in this Vice report .

But why? There is a theory, supported by brain scan research, that suggests a link between the development of facial recognition and the development of reading skills . That is, the brain develops letter and word recognition skills at specific neural points that can end up “crowding out” the development of facial recognition skills. Those who defend this theory suggest that the solution to ensure that children develop strong reading skills and strong facial recognition skills could be at the time of education, that is, to take advantage of the youthful plasticity of the brain with greater precision.

Ok, so what do we do? We all see, over and over again, many faces in real life and representations of those faces , but in general, this is not a skill that you can improve on, like when you learn to play chess or a video game. However, to compensate for any type of deficit, some people have found alternative strategies to try to distinguish those they know, such as memorizing their hairstyles, voices or postures, for example. Developing self-directed strategies for recognition is not the only way to manage facial blindness disorder. According to some experimental studies , the drug oxytocin may improve facial recognition in people affected by this disorder, but research is still in its early stages.

Humans remember names better than faces. The truth is that just as we forget faces, most of us have experienced the discomfort of meeting someone and forgetting their name. The experience leads many to regret that they are “bad with names” and can cause some social embarrassment. But several studies suggest that this is not true: what we are really experiencing is the effect of two different types of memory and an interaction between them. In fact, research from the University of York found that subjects remembered strangers’ names better than their faces.

The results were clear: they recognized an average of 73% of faces when the same photo was shown, but only the 63% when the photo changed. They recognized the 85% of names, and that decreased very slightly when used a different font. Remembering a face, the researchers noted, is a matter of recognition . This is a largely unconscious function of the brain, an association of experience with other things that have happened in our lives (like seeing someone every day at school). But remembering a name requires memorizing, a completely different system.

By remembering something, the brain “reproduces” a pattern of neural activity that was first established when it was given to the mind. the original stimulus. This process is one of the reasons why it is sometimes possible to remember something if you think about it long enough. One hypothesis that they give for the difference is that when we see the photograph of a stranger we only have one metric to help our memory: how they look. When seeing a word, we have both the appearance of the letters and the imagined sound, which could give our minds more things to hold onto (such as seeing a person and also hearing their voice).

Image: Unsplash

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