A person gets familiar with many in his/her lifetime. S/he meets some of them – like relatives, friends and colleagues – on a regular basis and meets others occasionally. Does s/he remember the appearance of all of them? May be different person will give different answer, as it depends on their memory and ability to remember the appearance of others.
A team of researchers from the University of York, the UK, recently revealed that the average person is able to recall approximately 5,000 faces in total, while others – with an extraordinary talent – can recognise a maximum of 10,000 faces. Researchers have made the revelation after carrying out a study with 25 undergraduate and postgraduate students – aged between 18 and 61 years old – at the University of Glasgow and the University of Aberdeen.
The researchers asked the participants to write down the names of their near and dear ones in a paper in one hour. The participants not only mentioned the names of their relatives and friends, but also the names of the people whom they met through the social media. Some participants even mentioned the names of famous faces they recognised. Interestingly, the participants found it easy to come up with lots of faces at first, but harder to think of new ones by the end of the hour!
Talking to the media, lead researcher Dr Rob Jenkins from the Department of Psychology said that the study focused mainly on the number of faces people actually know. “We haven’t yet found a limit on how many faces the brain can handle. The ability to distinguish different individuals is clearly important – it allows you to keep track of people’s behaviour over time, and to modify your own behaviour accordingly,” he stressed. According to Dr Jenkins, although the average person is able to recollect approximately 5,000 faces, some can recognise 10,000 faces. “It could reflect different social environments – some participants may have grown up in more densely populated places with more social input,” he explained.
The lead researcher claimed that the average age of the participants was 24, saying that age was an important factor in this study. The age provides an intriguing avenue for further research, he argued. Dr Jenkins informed the press that they would carry out another study to find whether there is a peak age for the number of faces people know. “Perhaps, we accumulate faces throughout our lifetimes, or perhaps we start to forget some after we reach a certain age,” he insisted.
In his Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez said: “The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
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