How We Recognize: By Body Shape

Study: We don't rely on faces to pick out far-off friends
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2013 2:10 PM CDT
How We Recognize: By Body Shape
Turns out we're pretty good at recognizing bodies.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – We hear plenty about facial recognition technology, whether on Facebook or at the FBI—but it turns out we humans are pretty good at spotting individuals based on their bodies, too. That may be why we can pick out a friend in a distant crowd, Popular Science reports. In a study, researchers gave subjects pictures of people whose faces were tough for software to identify. The subjects' task was to match up the same people in multiple shots.

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Subjects were better able to do so when they could see the people's bodies; when the people's faces were easier to see but their bodies were unclear, subjects had more trouble matching them up. Even when faces were totally covered, participants were able to match up photos. Subjects generally thought they were depending on faces to make their matches—but eye-tracking gear proved otherwise. "People’s recognition strategies were inaccessible to their conscious awareness," says a researcher. It may be time, another suggests, for recognition software to consider bodies as well as faces. (Read more body stories.)

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