How Face Perception Impacts Thoughts and Feelings

A special issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science brings together innovative research and theory in psychological science, computer science, neuroscience and related fields, illuminating the myriad ways in which face perception infuses how we think and behave.

Faces provide untold amounts of information about the people in our world. We use faces to identify someone as a friend or stranger, as approachable or hostile, as a member of our group or an outsider. Typically, we make all of these determinations without ever being consciously aware that we’re doing it.

Articles explore the mechanisms that underlie face perception and how we use information from faces. Topical areas include the adaptive functions that likely contribute to recognizing faces and facial expressions, the origins and developmental trajectory of face recognition across different people, and the reasons why we sometimes make errors when it comes to recognizing certain faces.

The issue also shows how we use facial perceptions to make judgments about other people, including forming quick first impressions and determining the social groups they belong to, whether they possess certain leadership qualities, and the likelihood that they’ll cooperate or act selfishly.

Articles in the issue illustrate how early experiences can shape face perception, leading to cultural differences in how we attend to facial features and exposure-related differences in how we process faces of different races.

The articles also show how biases in how we recognize emotions in faces can contribute to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders like depression and aggression.

Finally, the issue explores how face perception ultimately guides our behavior towards others, influencing whether we decide to engage with someone in prosocial ways and even whether we might dehumanize and harm someone.

Source: Association of Psychological Science