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PSY3020 : Face Perception

  • Offered for Year: 2018/19
  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Vicki Bruce
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This module aims to:
•Outline the major uses made of information from the face in social interaction, and describe what we know about how brains process different messages from the face
•Describe how expertise with faces develops, and how it can be impaired by brain injury
•Outline major applications of the psychology of face perception including forensic investigations(eye-witnessing) security contexts; communications industries; animations and facial restorative surgery
•Take an interdisciplinary approach – since the psychology of face perception involves cognitive, social, developmental and neuroscience perspectives, and the applications of this knowledge involve such other disciplines as computer science, socio-legal studies; and maxilla-facial surgery.

The module provides an advanced understanding of the major uses made of information from the face in person identification, expression recognition, lip-reading and other aspects of social cognition, and how these different messages are derived. The development of face perception and its impairment following brain injury or disease will also be covered. Important applications areas will be described - including eyewitness testimony, computer recognition of faces; the perception of faces via video; building and re-building faces in animations and surgery. The approach in the module will be interdisciplinary, combining perspectives from cognitive, developmental and social psychology with those from neuroscience, socio-legal, computing and medical perspectives.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module leader will give lectures covering the following areas:

Introduction – Messages from the face
Categorising the face – age, sex, race
Aesthetics of the face – attractiveness
Gaze and visual attention
Expressions and lipreading
Remembering unfamiliar faces.
Eyewitness memory for faces
Models of familiar face recognition
Remembering people and recalling names
Development of face recognition
Disorders of face recognition.

Students will prepare and offer presentations (in pairs or small groups, depending on student numbers on the module) on cross-cutting theoretical topics and/or applications, such as the following (examples):

Are faces special?
The role of dynamic information in face perception and recognition
Face adaptation studies
Psychological implications of face transplantation
The use and abuse of CCTV images to help prevent and solve crime
Remote communication by phone and video-link.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion15:005:00Preparing and writing trial essay
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion121:0021:00Preparing for the final examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity110:0010:00Preparing student presentations
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study104:0040:00Reading around lectures each week
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The early weeks of teaching will be double lectures from the module leader. We then move to a series of weeks with a balance of occasional single lectures and student-led seminars filling the remaining slots. Student pairs or small groups (3-4) will present accounts of cross-cutting theoretical or applications areas.

The module leader will introduce the main topic areas, and will set the students tasks of integrating material across different approaches or applications areas in their research and preparation for their presentations. These presentations, which will form a minor assessed component of the module evaluation, will be an important means of testing the knowledge and skills outcomes for this module.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A90Unseen exam (answer 2 essay questions from choice of 5) – see further comments below
Oral Presentation202M1015-20 minute oral presentation (length dependent upon student numbers) – see further comments below
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Exam Information:
Unseen examination (answer two essay-based exam questions from choice of five. All questions will be set to require use of material beyond a single lecture delivered by the Module leader to gain a high mark)

Other Assessment:
The oral presentation will be by a small group of students (2-4)
Assessment of each individual student will be marked as poor (35), satisfactory (45), good (55), very good (65), excellent (75) on:
Personal presentation style; contribution to the group; quality and relevance of content. A single categorical mark per student will be derived from these scores and will comprise 10% of the module assessment.

Assessment rationale and relationship:

The oral presentation will partially assess knowledge outcomes and significantly assess the skills outcomes - research, team working and communication and presentation skills. The unseen examination will mainly assess the knowledge outcomes.

Reading Lists