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The blue areas show how the eye moves over a stranger's face when the viewer is trying to recognize them. Its usually focused on the nose, front and center. Most writers talk about the eyes, when trying to recognize people, but that's not the case, especially when you're trying to figure out who that person is. Its the nose that helps people know who they are talking to.

A bunch of UC San Diego researchers were studying exactly how many fixation points were necessary before a person recognized the face of the person they were looking at and found that they all looked at one point on the nose.

They showed experimental subjects a number of photographs of faces, and then had them try to recognize those faces, amid a crowd of new and unfamiliar ones, on a computer. The subjects were given a limited amount of time to remember each face. By varying that amount of time and tracking eye movement, researchers tried to pin down exactly how many steady looks (fixations) it took to recognize people.

Instead of staring at people's eyes, they stared at the center of the person's nose and if given time for a second fixation, most people would just glance to the left of the center of the person's nose.

Its all in the nose.

Story and Image: UCSD.