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Ability to Recognize Faces Peaks in Our 30s

A surprising discovery suggests our mental faculties have not yet been fully tapped by the age of 30.

Scientists have determined that our ability to recognize and remember faces peaks at age 30 to 34, about a decade later than most of our other mental abilities.

Researchers Laura T. Germine, Dr. Ken Nakayama of Harvard University and Dr. Bradley Duchaine of Dartmouth College will publish their work in a forthcoming issue of the journal Cognition.

While prior evidence had suggested that face recognition might be slow to mature, Germine said few scientists had suspected that it might continue building for so many years into adulthood. She says the late-blooming nature of face recognition may simply be a case of practice making perfect.

“We all look at faces, and practice face-watching, all the time,” says Germine, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard.

“It may be that the parts of the brain we use to recognize faces require this extended period of tuning in early adulthood to help us learn and remember a wide variety of different faces.”

Germine, Duchaine, and Nakayama used the web-based Cambridge Face Memory Test to test recognition of computer-generated faces among some 44,000 volunteers ages 10 to 70.

They found that skill at other mental tasks, such as remembering names, maxes out at age 23 to 24, consistent with previous research.

But on a face-recognition task, skill rose sharply from age 10 to 20, then continued increasing more slowly throughout the 20s, reaching a peak of 83 percent correct responses in the cohort ages 30 to 34.

A follow-up experiment involving computer-generated children’s faces found a similar result, with the best face recognition seen among individuals in their early 30s. After this, skill in recognizing faces declined slowly, with the ability of 65-year-olds roughly matching that of 16-year-olds.

“Research on cognition has tended to focus on development, to age 20, and aging, after age 55,” Germine said. “Our work shows that the 35 years in between, previously thought to be fairly static, may in fact be more dynamic than many scientists had expected.”

Source: Harvard University

Ability to Recognize Faces Peaks in Our 30s

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Ability to Recognize Faces Peaks in Our 30s. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/22/ability-to-recognize-faces-peaks-in-our-30s/22064.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.