An Aberdeen scientist has been awarded a £280,000 grant to investigate how people remember faces.
Psychology lecturer Margaret Jackson, of Aberdeen University, has received the grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to study how we remember where we saw certain faces, and how certain emotional expressions influence this memory.
During the two-year project, Ms Jackson will use touchscreen and eye tracking technology to measure how accurate people are at remembering the location of faces, particularly ones showing threatening expressions like anger.
Ms Jackson said: “It is fundamental to normal, human interaction that we are able to read other people’s facial expressions so we can infer what they are feeling.
“This is particularly important for anger which signals hostility or aggression and threatens our physical and emotional welfare.
“However, facial expressions are fleeting, so it is essential that we clearly and accurately remember who expressed an emotion and where that person is so that we can respond in an appropriate way.”
As well as adding to current knowledge of human memory, attention, and cognitive processes, Ms Jackson hopes her research will shed light on how moods are interpreted.
She added: “The need to interpret social situations correctly and respond appropriately affects us all, and it impacts not only our close relationships with family and friends, but also communications with others in the wider world such as at work, school, university, the local shop, and even the stranger on the street.
“It is hoped that this research may be useful in helping to understand how social skills and mood may impact on memory for face location.
“Given that this type of memory is crucial for social functioning – identifying individual differences in these systems may be of particular benefit to people with impairments in social processing such as autism. “