As cave paintings evolved into more abstract images then onto pictorial written language, we can see how early language stayed linked to pictures.
Like in texting, we might use emoticons to express our facial expressions, even though it could just be a simple image consisting of two dots and a line, instead of a person’s actual physical face.
It’s possibly a survival technique in early humans to spot “faces” in random or unsuspecting places, such as how we can spot a “face” in the front of a car or the moon. New-borns are able to differentiate a parent’s face to that of a unfamiliar face (Matlin and Foley). So is face recognition important? Evidence seems to suggest so, with the idea that the brain has a separate area devoted to the task.
Patients have suffered with a condition called prosopagnosia where human faces were impossible to identify, including their own. Face perception loss, such as this condition, has been shown to have physical routes in damage usually involving the right temporal lobe of the brain (Wacholtz, 1996). Psychologists Damasio and Tranel(1990) also found that this condition only affects the identity of the face. Other aspects such as gender or age are unaffected. As sections of the brain are so devoted to the task of face recognition, humans can identify a “face” even if it’s not a true organic face.
Face perception is possibly innate, as psychologists Morton and Johnson’s study(1991), showed how new-born infants were drawn towards images of faces, rather than images of mixed up faces or blank images.
Humans can naturally identify abstract images. We can see a realistic image of an object (like a photograph)and also as an abstract image (like a crude drawing by a child), and still recognise what it is, even if it isn’t real or physical.
Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols, basically where we perceive the image of a sign which can evoke a feeling or a memory that conveys its meaning, almost nostalgic. People create images as a means to communicate and this can be useful socially. We use icons and symbols in everyday life such as road and warning signs, as a means to communicate an idea quickly and simply while on the move or in an emergency (also useful universally for people who speak a foreign language or are illiterate) or in instruction booklets as a visual representation. So semiotics can be a visual representation, but this study also includes spoken words, audio, body language and gestures, to express a message: “Semiotics involves the study not only of what we refer to as ‘signs’ in every-day speech, but of anything which ‘stands for ’something else” (Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics). For example, you might hear birds singing outside and you automatically connect that sound to birds, without actually seeing them, or an alarm ringing throughout a building that will mean there is a fire and for you to escape outside to safety.
Chandler, Daniel . Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd Ed. (p1-2)
Coren, Stanley., Ward, Laurence M. , Enns, James T. (1998) Sensation and Perception. 5th Ed. Harcourt College Publishing(p540)
Matlin, Margaret W. and Foley, Hugh J. (1997) Sensation and Perception. 4th Ed. (p448)
American Express advert (2009)- shows how we can recognise “faces” in random places.