Neural mechanisms in face perception

The amygdala plays an important role in facial recognition. Functional imaging studies have found that when shown pictures of faces, there is a large increase in the activity of the amygdala.The amygdala receives visual information from the thalamus via the subcortical pathways. The amygdala may also have a significant role in the recognition of fear and negative emotions. It is believed that the emotion disgust is recognized through activation of the insula and basal ganglia.

The recognition of emotion may also utilize the occipitotemporal neocortex, orbitofrontal cortex and right frontoparietal cortices. Gender, facial cues and face perception



From birth, both males and females are developing their facial expressions, as well as their ability to process the facial cues (face perception) of those they are communicating with. Multiple studies have shown that women are far more able to interpret what facial cues mean when communicating.] One explanation for this is the differences in maturation between the two genders. As the female gender matures at a faster rate, they are more able to understand the complexity of human emotions, as well as how they are registered through facial expressions.

More than anything though, what shapes a child’s cognitive ability to detect facial expression is being exposed to it from the time of birth. The more an infant is exposed to different faces and expressions, the more able they are to recognize these emotions and then mimic them for themselves. Infants are exposed to an array of emotional expressions from birth, and evidence indicates that they imitate some facial expressions and gestures (e.g., tongue protrusion) as early as the first few days of life.For the first 6 months, mothers have been seen to typically show the same types of emotions and facial cues to their infant whether it is a boy or a girl. However, after this amount of time, studies have shown that mothers will be more explicit with mimicking the facial expressions of their sons, while being more ambiguous with their daughters.

On the other hand, mothers will be more expressive of their emotions with daughters compared to how they express emotions with their son. This is said to have opened their daughters up to more emotional displays, making daughters more aware of emotional expressions from an earlier age than boys. While these differences in the early development may seem subtle, it can be argued that these play a crucial role in how the two genders differ in their ability to detect emotion later on in life.

 

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