Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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Forensic psychology

5.3.1 Turning face perception on its head

It is difficult to recognise a face when it is upside down because we have developed face-recognition skills that are based on the ‘configuration’ of the facial features, that is the relative spatial position of the features in the face.

When a face is upright, these cues provide us with a quick and accurate means of recognising a face. However, when the face is turned upside down, the configuration of the features is completely disrupted, meaning the brain cannot use its normal method of face recognition. Instead, the brain must rely on other methods, such as analysing the individual features, which are slower and tend to be less accurate.

The ‘Turning face perception on its head’ video provides a very neat demonstration of this phenomenon.

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UPSIDE-DOWN MAN
Hi! Apart from the obvious, notice anything strange about the way I look?
OK, now, we're not going to change anything apart from which way up I am. As I turn around, maybe things aren't quite the way you thought they were, eh?
OK, so what we did was we took my mouth, turned it upside-down, and then we did the same with my eyes. Hmm. Now, this way up things may look a bit strange, but even odder - keep everything the same, turn me upside-down and things look normal again. Odd, eh?
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