100 Things You Should Know About People: #95 — People Decide Who And What Is Alive By The Eyes

In a previous post, I talked about the special part of the brain that is for recognizing faces. New research by Christine Looser shows that “the eyes have it” when it comes to faces.

When is a face human and alive? — Christine Looser takes pictures of people and then morphs them in stages into inanimate manniquin faces. She shows the stages and has people decide when the picture is no longer a human and alive. Here is an example of the pictures she uses:


Man's face morphing from human to mannequin
When does the face stop being alive?

Her research found that there is a spot, about 75% down the continuum, where people say they are not people/alive anymore. She also found that people primarily use the eyes to decide if a picture is human and alive.

What do you think? Starting from the left, which face is “no longer alive”?

And if you like to read the research:

Looser, Christine E. & Wheatley, T. (2010). The tipping point of animacy: How, when, and where we perceive life in a face. Psychological Science, 21(12), 1854–1862.