Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Why we have difficulty recognising people who look different

Why we have difficulty recognising people who don’t look like us


When Professor Will Hayward, now Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland, moved to Hong Kong in the late 1990s he loved the city and all its excitement but found one thing very hard to get used to.

“It sounds un-PC but I had great difficulty telling my Chinese students apart from one another,” he says. “I would often mistake one student for another.”

Appointed Head of Psychology at the University of Hong Kong, Professor Hayward felt anxious about being unable to readily identify his students by name until he started talking to the students. They totally understood.

“They couldn’t figure out why I had trouble with them; they said all white people looked identical to each other.”

As a researcher in visual perception, he found this intriguing and it led to development of a research programme on face identification for people of different ethnicities.

The science of face perception is the topic of Professor Hayward’s inaugural lecture, the Psychology of Seeing.

“For most of us, seeing is effortless. We open our eyes, and the world is instantly available to us. But the ease of the process belies its complexity, and we are only just beginning to understand how the brain creates our visual sense of the world.”

Professor Hayward says the problem with faces is that we develop expertise for the precise differences between them but if those faces are from one ethnicity, then we become overspecialised. This is particularly noticeable when travelling to countries where the culture is unfamiliar.



“The key thing is that these new people aren’t actually more similar to each other than the ones we are used to, but our visual system doesn’t know what to pay attention to,” he says.

“Spending time in the new location definitely gives you more expertise at face identication, but it does require active practice.”

Professor Hayward’s lecture gives an overview of the field of visual perception, which combines experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. He will illustrate how the eyes are only the beginning of the visual system, and that major parts of the brain are devoted to interpreting visual information.
Professor Hayward was educated in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury before gaining his PhD from Yale University. He led the Department of Psychology at the University of Hong Kong before taking up his current role.

The lecture will be held on Level 0 of the Owen G Glen Building in Lecture Theatre OGGB3 from 6pm to 7pm. All welcome to this free lecture. Refreshments at Excel Cafe, OGGB Level 1 from 5pm.


ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Interim Crown Accounts: Minister Sees Strong Economic Fundamentals

Stronger-than-forecast wage and employment growth, and higher company profits are shown in the figures for the eleven months to 31 May. More>>

ALSO:

1.5 Percent: Official Cash Rate Unchanged

The Official Cash Rate (OCR) remains at 1.5 percent. Given the weaker global economic outlook and the risk of ongoing subdued domestic growth, a lower OCR may be needed over time to continue to meet our objectives. More>>

ALSO:

IMF On NZ: Near-Term Boost, Risks Tilted To Downside

New Zealand's economic expansion has lost momentum and while the near-term outlook is expected to improve, risks are increasingly tilted to the downside, according to the International Monetary Fund. More>>

ALSO:

Traceability: NZ To Track Satellites, Eggs

The New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA) is continuing to build its capability as a regulator of space activity with a new pilot project which allows officials to see real-time information on the orbital position of satellites launched from New Zealand. More>>

ALSO:

OECD On NZ: NZ's Living Standards Framework Positive But Has Gaps

Treasury’s living standards framework reflects good practice internationally but has some data gaps, including in areas where New Zealand fares poorly, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says. More>>

ALSO:

RBNZ Act Review: Govt Plans Deposit Guarantee Scheme

The Coalition Government today announced moves to make New Zealand’s banking system safer for customers through a new deposit protection regime, and work to strengthen accountability for banks’ actions. More>>

ALSO: