The role of eyebrows in face recognition.
A fundamental challenge in face recognition lies in determining which facial characteristics are important in the identification of faces. Several studies have indicated the significance of certain facial features in this regard, particularly internal ones such as the eyes and mouth. Surprisingly, however, one rather prominent facial feature has received little attention in this domain: the eyebrows. Past work has examined the role of eyebrows in emotional expression and nonverbal communication, as well as in facial aesthetics and sexual dimorphism. However, it has not been made clear whether the eyebrows play an important role in the identification of faces. Here, we report experimental results which suggest that for face recognition the eyebrows may be at least as influential as the eyes. Specifically, we find that the absence of eyebrows in familiar faces leads to a very large and significant disruption in recognition performance. In fact, a significantly greater decrement in face recognition is observed in the absence of eyebrows than in the absence of eyes. These results may have important implications for our understanding of the mechanisms of face recognition in humans as well as for the development of artificial face-recognition systems.