Images of people activate a designated region of our brain, called the superior temporal sulcus (STS; Allison, Puce, & McCarthy, 2000).
In particular, faces activate the fusiform gyrus (Puce et al., 1996).
In other studies, researchers found that people detect changes in faces more easily than in other objects (e.g., clothes; Ro, Russell, & Lavie, 2001).
However, faces need to be upright (Eastwood, Smilek, & Merikle, 2003). Thanks to the face inversion effect, we’re slower to detect inverted faces (Epstein et al., 2006).
Also, here’s a question. What makes a face…well…a face? When does our brain stop recognizing a face?
Turns out, our brain looks for underlying geometric patterns:
…our first study indicated that the overall geometric configuration provided by the facial features, rather than individual features, was how a culture defined the emotional representation. (Aronoff, 2006, p. 85)
Ironically, schematic faces can be more attention-grabbing than realistic faces because they are built with geometric shapes.