Richard Russell, a postdoc at the Harvard Vision Sciences Laboratory, has just published a study that shows that minor differences in skin pigmentation are more critical to facial recognition than facial shape. In this study, “subjects were asked to recognise color images of the faces of their friends. The images were manipulated such that only reflectance or only shape information was useful for recognizing any particular face. Subjects were actually better at recognizing their friends’ faces from reflectance information than from shape information” (Russell & Sinha, 2007).
Mihai Moldovan has another paper showing that ruddiness acts as a signal of male dominance in humans, especially in a context of male-male competition (see my earlier post on this topic). I’ll have more to say when the paper comes out.
Russell R and Sinha P, (2007). Real-world face recognition: The importance of surface reflectance properties. Perception 36(9), 1368 – 1374