Face recognition

Judging by this title, you might expect an article on the progress we made in technology – and all the pending doom that goes with it. I hate to disappoint but I merely want to share that I have discovered something during this obnoxious pandemic aka global mask-craze.

I first started thinking about this when I realised I am having a tremendously hard time remembering my students’ names this year. It didn’t used to be this hard? Am I getting old? Did my brain give up? Colleagues were voicing similar experiences: it is hard to recognize, let alone remember, a person’s face when you only see half of it. And the half that you do see, is coronated by an untamed hairdo (yes, that was a far-fetched pun).

But I felt guilty about the whole name-thing: it does come across as disrespectful I find, but I am really trying! So I started googling. How do people remember faces? How do we categorize them? I won’t bore you with my search history but some of the articles were very interesting: how an infant’s survival depends on recognizing its mother, and how memorizing is different for everyone, how a dysfunctional temporal lobe might make it impossible to remember people… Don’t worry, I also did some online tests and I am fine. (Dr Google and I are old friends.)

But it got me thinking. In the past I have remarked that two people look alike when friends did not agree at all. At all! And then I realized: I categorize people by their mouth. Eyes too, but mouth first. Even more: I will attribute certain personality traits to a person based on his/her mouth, I will be attracted or even repelled by a mouth, I compare mouths. So a world inhabited by masked people constitutes hell to me.

It is completely and utterly useless information but there you go..

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