News Release: Research

Jun. 29,  2009

New Clue to Evolution of Face Recognition

News Article ImageVisit eScienceCommons to see a demonstration of a facial-recognition phenomenon known as the Thatcher effect. (Photo graphic by Ben Basile)

From eScienceCommons

Why does this image appear normal when viewed upside down, but clearly shows that it is distorted when right-side up? It's a phenomenon known as the Thatcher effect.

Emory psychologists have shown for the first time that another species besides humans shares this face-recognition trait. The results of their study on rhesus monkeys, published today in Current Biology, provides insight into the evolution of the critical human social skill of facial recognition.

"Face recognition is a fundamental part of human social life," says lead investigator Robert Hampton, from the department of psychology and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. "Our research indicates the ability to perform this skill probably evolved some 30 million or more years ago in an ancestor humans share with rhesus monkeys."

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