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100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People: There's a Special Part of the Brain Just for Recognizing Faces

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People recognize and react to faces on Web pages faster than anything else on the page. In this chapter from her book, Susan Weinschenk explains how understanding this concept can help you design better web pages.
This chapter is from the book

Imagine that you're walking down a busy street in a large city when you suddenly see the face of a family member. Even if you were not expecting to see this person, and even if there are dozens, or even hundreds, of people in your visual field, you will immediately recognize him or her as your relative. You'll also have an accompanying emotional response, be it love, hate, fear, or otherwise.

Although the visual cortex is huge and takes up significant brain resources, there is a special part of the brain outside the visual cortex whose sole purpose is to recognize faces. Identified by Nancy Kanwisher (1997), the fusiform face area (FFA) allows faces to bypass the brain's usual interpretive channels and helps us identify them more quickly than objects. The FFA is also near the amygdala, the brain's emotional center.

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