School of Psychology, Liaoning Normal University, Dalian, Liaoning, China.
Investigators are finding increasing evidence for cross-cultural specificity in face cognition along with individual characteristics. The functions on which face cognition is based not only are types of general cognitive functions (perception, memory) but are elements of specific mental processes. Face perception, memorization, correct recognition of faces, and understanding the information that faces provide are essential skills for humans as a social species and can be considered as facets of social (cultural) intelligence. Face cognition is a difficult, multifaceted set of processes. The systems and processes involved in perceiving and recognizing faces are captured by several models focusing on the pertinent functions or including the presumably underlying neuroanatomical substrates. Thus, the study of face-cognition mechanisms is a cross-disciplinary topic. In Russia, Germany, and China there are plans to organize an interdisciplinary crosscultural study of face cognition. The first step of this scientific interaction is conducting psychological and psychophysiological studies of face cognition in multinational Russia within the frame of a grant supported by the Russian Science Foundation and devoted to “cross-cultural tolerance”. For that reason and in the presence of the huge diversity of data concerning face cognition, we suggest for discussion, specifically within the psychological scientific community, three aspects of face cognition: (1) psychophysiological (quantitative data), (2) developmental (qualitative data from developmental psychology), and (3) cross-cultural (qualitative data from cross-cultural studies). These three aspects reflect the different levels of investigations and constitute a comprehensive, multilateral approach to the problem. Unfortunately, as a rule, neuropsychological and psychological investigations are carried out independently of each other. However, for the purposes of our overview here, we assume that the main factors that could influence the developmental, individual psychophysiological, and cross-cultural differences in face cognition are not only biological but also social and cultural. One of the principal tasks of this article is to draw the attention of psychologists to the physiology of face processing and to draw the attention of neuroscientists to the psychology of face cognition. Thus, the main goal of the article is to instigate a discussion among social psychologists, psychophysiologists, and neuroscientists about the mechanisms of face cognition, which, as in a mirror, reflect the basic, fundamental “psychophysical” problem of psychophysiology.
Keywords: face cognition, social psychophysiology, development, other-ethnicity effects, brain mechanisms