Viewing entries in
Pyschology of Smiles

Psychology of Smiles, p. 4

Comment

Psychology of Smiles, p. 4

Part 4 - Eye tracking and the Thatcher Illusion

So our brains are hardwired to see faces, but what does that have to do with smiles?  Well it turns out that the smile is one of the most important features of the face and this can be confirmed with eye tracking studies.  In these studies, a computer can register what parts of image the subject is focusing on.  These studies confirm that when we look at the human face we spend most of the time looking between the eyes and the mouth.  Most of our social cues come from these two areas, and our ability to read social cues may rely on this natural fixation.  Studies on patients with Autism seem to indicate that they have an an altered gaze pattern when looking at faces.  There are even studies that show that we when look at a smiling face, our eyes are drawn first to the smile itself first even before we look to the eyes!

Here is an example of how our gaze naturally focuses on the eyes and the mouth:

The Thatcher Illusion

Arising from our natural tendency  to focus on the eyes and the mouth, comes a fun visual illusion called the “Thatcher illusion”.  Look at the next two faces and you should find the one on the right far more disturbing than the one on the left:

The interesting fact is that these two images are exactly the same, only rotated 180 degrees.   (You can turn your computer screen upside-down to verify that last statement).   When the head is upside-down but we see the eyes and mouth are oriented correctly, it looks ‘ok’.  Our brains don’t mind that too much.  However when we see the eyes and mouth upside-down on an upright face, it really looks bad!  This illusion illustrates that when we look at a face, we really focus on the individual parts, the eyes and the mouth.  This is why it is so important that these parts of our face represent us well!

Let me "Thatcher-ize" you!

So for this week’s fun, if you will post a close-up selfie of just your face on our Facebook page, I will “Thatcher you”.  It is a little disturbing so be prepared.  Here is a picture of me “Thatchered”.   The left should look a little less weird, but if you ask me, they both look scary!

Here's my face "Thatcher-ized!"

And here is Rebekah's!

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our Psychology of Smiles series.

Comment

Psychology of Smiles, p. 3

Comment

Psychology of Smiles, p. 3

Part 3 - Pareidolia

Over the last couple of posts, I have introduced how much our brains are hard-wired to see and recognize human faces.  Now it is time to have some fun with our cognitive quirks.  Pareidolia is the phenomenon to perceive complex images in everyday objects, and the most common form is seeing human faces in all kinds of things. We see faces EVERYWHERE!  Here are some of my favorites from the internet:

Everyone remember the man on Mars?

Or what about this bashful face in the mountain?

Notice how when we look at these next ones that we not only see faces, but we naturally ascribe emotions.  This again points out how intimately our emotional centers are connected to facial recognition.

How can you NOT see this happy car face?

Or this over-worked and angry mop?

Click here to see 45 more found faces!

What are some of your found faces? Share your pictures with us on our Facebook page, and we'll pick the best picture to win a $50 Visa gift card. It has to be one you've taken; no internet searches allowed! 

Read Part 1, and Part 2 of our Psychology of Smiles series. 

Comment

The Psychology of Smile, p.2

Comment

The Psychology of Smile, p.2

In the last post, I introduced the special area of the brain called the fusiform gyrus and its role in human face recognition.  Today I would like to talk about how much this area is hardwired into the emotional centers of the brain, the limbic system.  There are two fascinating conditions that illustrate  the intimate connection between recognizing faces and our feelings of emotion...

Comment

The Psychology of Smiles, p.1

Comment

The Psychology of Smiles, p.1

Let’s start at the beginning with the importance of the human face.  It is remarkable fact of human cognition that there is a localized structure in our brains dedicated to the recognition of the human face.  We don’t have local structures for recognizing our houses, our cars, our pets, etc.; but faces in this regard are completely unique...

Comment