Answer & Explanation

Brain imaging studies show that portions of the visual system are specialized for this kind of holistic expert recognition, particularly a region of the fusiform gyrus. The “fusiform face area” (FFA) is in the right hemisphere is particularly important for perceiving faces (Grill-Spector, Knouf, & Kanwisher, 2004; McCarthy, Puce, Gore, & Allison, 1997). Damage to the FFA produces a condition known as prosopagnosia in which people can distinguish what is and is not a face, but they fail to recognize the faces of others, even people that they know very well. The analogous region of the left hemisphere fusiform gyrus is known as the “visual word form area” (VWFA) and, among literate adults, is particularly important for recognizing words (Behrmann & Plaut, 2013). Damage to the VWFA produces “pure alexia”, a disorder in which people can recognize individual letters but not whole words, so they tend to adopt a letter-by-letter reading strategy, similar to how people with prosopagnosia tend to focus on individual facial features to recognize faces (Behrmann & Plaut, 2014). From an evolutionary perspective, why might it be more important to quickly recognize angry facial expressions than it is to recognize happy ones?

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