12 October 2023

Face recognition assessment needs to be improved


Our ability to recognise faces changes throughout life, but the skill can also be disrupted by sudden injuries. A new research project aims to shed light on how face recognition develops throughout life – and how to accurately test this ability in different age groups.

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Most of us can recognise other people's faces quickly and automatically, without thinking about what we are doing. However, our ability to recognise faces changes as we age and can also be impaired by brain injury or dementia.

Some people never develop the ability to quickly and accurately recognise who a face belongs to. Impaired face recognition, regardless of the cause, can have major consequences for a person's social interaction and quality of life.

A new project, 'Improving psychological assessment of face processing across the lifespan', will investigate what actually happens to face recognition and which methods are best to use when assessing people's ability to recognise faces.

"We have few tools to study face recognition in different age groups. This makes it difficult to detect and diagnose problems with recognising or naming faces. We simply lack knowledge about how face recognition develops throughout life," says Randi Starrfelt, Professor at the Department of Psychology.

She is behind the project, which is funded with DKK 3.1 million from Independent Research Fund Denmark. In the project, she will collaborate with clinical researchers at Rigshospitalet and international experts in the study of face recognition.

In search of tools that work in Denmark

In Denmark, there are only a few clinical tests of face recognition, and most of them are old and with limited control data.

"In order to accurately detect and diagnose impaired face recognition, we need sensitive and specific neuropsychological tests. Furthermore, we need knowledge about how healthy controls perform on these tests if we are to determine what constitutes an impaired ability to recognise faces," explains Randi Starrfelt.

In three sub-projects, the researchers are investigating face recognition and naming in children, adults and the elderly.

"Our project will contribute with well-founded, clinical test tools adapted to a Danish context. We will answer key scientific questions about how the ability to recognise faces develops from childhood to old age," concludes Randi Starrfelt.


Randi Starrfelt
Professor, Department of Psychology
Mail: randi.starrfelt@psy.ku.dk 
Phone: +45 35 32 48 86

Simon Knokgaard Halskov
Press and communications officer
Mail: sih@samf.ku.dk 
Phone: +45 93 56 53 29


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