The Human Face (2001) s01e02 Episode Script

Here s Looking at You

Do you find you're endlessly fascinated by this thing on the front of your head? Well you're not alone We love faces, our own and other peoples But why do faces interest us so much and how much do they really tell us about their owner? Like us, other animals are also fascinated by what they see in the mirror but unlike us they think they're looking at another animal Only chimps, and of course, man can recognise their own reflection to know that what they see is who they are- well, the intelligent ones can do that anyway.
Perhaps we pay too much attention to faces My mother used to say, "You can't tell a book from its cover" So how much does this mug tell you about its owner? This is Vicky, a 21 year old student Sometimes I'll think that, you know, I'm the hottest chick in town or something you know, I think, yeah I'm pretty, pretty cool I'm an OK babe, you know And then it will be somebody's, somebody will give me a really bad look, and then I'll remember that I don't actually look that way Vicky has a rare genetic disorder called cherubism and strangers can find her face unnerving Some people will just look and then they'll glance away But every now and then I'll come across someone who'll stare and stare and stare really cold, hard stares, someone is so curious that they just can't keep their eyes off of me Vicky was a normal looking baby It was only as she started to grow that her parents noticed that something was wrong Vicky, when did you first notice that your face was becoming different? Well, my mum first noticed when I was about 4 years old and she was brushing my teeth and noticed that my teeth were kind of higgledy piggledy around my mouth you know not quite normal So I wasn't born looking like this How different are you now from how you might have been if you'd grown up without your face changing? When I was a little girl I was very bossy and I was very boisterous and I was a terrible show off and in my brother's christening video, you know there's me in a dress singing nursery rhymes and pulling my dress up and being absolutely horrendous But when I got to the age of 12, 13, that's when I started to become more withdrawn because that's when my face started to get more severe That's when people at school started to bully me And I think it was all about being popular When you're a teenager you wanna be popular, you wanna be normal, you wanna be in, in with the crowd I've got a 16 year old daughter, so I know how difficult that is Oh it's awful being a teenage girl, you know there's nothing worse than being a teenage girl believe me.
The last thing you want to be is different, which is what I was All the nasty people don't want to know me really and it's good kind strong people that I have as friends because they don't really mind the way I look They like me for me When people first meet Vicky they sometimes assume she's mentally retarded but it takes about sixty seconds to discover she's a bright, funny, warm, woman with a sparkling personality.
So the interesting question is how much information is our face actually giving out? And the other question is: Why does it look like this anyway? Once upon a time, though life existed, there were no faces Then along came a sea creature with the first facial feature - a mouth So it could eat A mere 200 million years after that innovation, a creature emerged from the primeval slime with the prototypes of all our modern features And the first face to come out of the water and breathe air, as I'm trying to do, did so in December of our evolutionary year and it belonged to a little reptile called acanthostega and I think there's one over there Now if you look on the top of his head you can see he's got internal ears But it's those tiny nostrils just there that are so important And those tiny reptilian orifices are the ancestor of our own hooters In those days noses were one of the most important features of our faces Being low down on the ground meant that smell was primary You were literally led by your nose Most animals continued to depend on their noses but our ancestors started to stand upright and that changed everything as we know 5 million years ago or something of that sort human beings changed from being on 4 feet to vertical You're higher so you see better Any advantage being higher as far as smell's concerned? Er no, but we don't rely much on smell We don't walk along with our nose on the ground like, like a 4 footed thing does As soon as you stand up it's very boring to have to go down saying "Oh God that was Auntie Margaret" So the moment you start standing up you, you immediately make smell less important Yes So for humans, the dominant sense became vision We learnt to recognise the world by who and what we saw So two reasons why the human face is important First, it means that we've got our sight, hearing, right at the top of our bodies, near smell and taste which is a good plan And our face is equally important because our face is nature's name tag in other word,It's a particular arrangement in features that tells you I am me I am not Michall Palon and also it tells you I'm Northem European and not Polanisan or Asian or Africa Even though there are 6 billion humans on this planet, no two faces are exactly alike Not even identical twins are truly identical We're all different But some of us don't want to look different Lisa comes from Mexico, where her Latin features blend in But now she's settled in Los Angeles and she wants to fit in with her white friends Spalding Drive cosmetic surgery and dermatology drop your chin just a little bit She's come to plastic surgeon Paul Nassif to find out what she could do to change her nose When I look at myself in the mirror I think I look very Latin And now even a step further I've actually married a Jewish man going to synagogue being exposed to a lot of the women there with these very thin little noses I actually would like to achieve that type of nose, that's what I'd like Maybe I can kind've give you a little better understanding I do like the real thin look of it Your primary concern is that you nostrils are too wide? What you're describing to me, it almost sounds like you want to have more of a Caucasian looking nose - we call that a westernisation rhinoplasty I think for me socially I would like to have that type of nose Every time I see someone with a small little nose, I think gosh I would love to have that type of nose I think it would be really nice As well as changing her nose Lisa's also going to try and make herself Iook more European by having her eyebrows lifted and her eyes widened Cannot wait to see what I'm gonna look like Wake up to a new and better you! And so we start now, making an incision inside the nose This surgery is not without its risks as her husband Mitchell is aware What if they mess if up? Its messed up forever Its not like other kinds of surgery where you could cover up with a long sleeved shirt or something like that This is a whole different situation lts her face Now there is maybe a one in a thousand chance that when I make this cut here, that some of this tissue may not heal properly which means if things go wrong, Lisa could lose the end of her nose but that's a risk she's prepared to take to make her face fit But will it actually help her to blend in? We'll find out later Most animals like to belong to a group Even the stupidest animal have learnt to recognise the faces of their friends and pick them out from the crowd even though to our eyes it's hard to tell them apart But let's check it out Welcome Martha.
Come right on in Step right in Boy have you got something to think about Martha is in a room looking at pictures of two different sheep One of them's her friend Sam, the other one's a total stranger But can Martha tell the difference? Which one's her friend - left or right? Can she work it out? Can you? Ooh, lts not easy She's on the move Yes she's chosen Sam, her friend! She's got it right Well done Martha, you win first prize And just to check that Martha's not a particularly brainy sheep, here's Matilda Will she be able to pick out Sam as easily? Uh oh, which one? She's spotted Sam and she's off.
Well done! Martha and Matilda aren't academics of the sheep world, all sheep can do this It's more than just a good party trick It's a key survival skill They have a very good visual sense, so it's not terribly surprising that they've turned this to actually allow them to identify important individuals, both family and friends within the flock, but also threatening individuals, either dominant members of the flock, or alternatively of course, predators Using visual cues And the area of the animal, same way as ourselves, that varies most is the face Humans have the most sophisticated face recognition system of any animal Even very young babies can recognise the faces that are important to them Just how young this ability begins is being tested at Birkbeck College in London Tatiana and her mum are going to be part of an experiment to find out whether Tatiana can recognise her mum's face and distinguish it from that of a stranger It's important for babies to recognize the faces of their mother and other important people in their life from very early in life, because these are the people who are going to be taking care of them and babies are very helpless and they rely on other people in order to survive This hairnet of electrical sensors will measure Tatiana's brain waves as she looks at pictures of her mum and of someone she's never seen before When she sees the stranger, the sensors show that although she knows she's looking at a face, she just can't recognise it But when she looks at her mum's face it's quite different Her brainwaves show there's immediate recognition That's because it's not actually the eye that recognises faces It's the brain that does all the hard work of processing and interpreting I went to find out more from brain expert Dr.
Ramachandran Smells good, doesn't it? Yeah, fried black butter, few capers - terrific There are 1 00 billion nerve cells in the cortex And the entire back part of the brain, a large chunk of the back part of the brain, almost half the brain, is devoted primarily to seeing I mean, that's extraordinary If anything says what an incredibly visual species we are the fact that half the brain is devoted to seeing It's extraordinary But what Dr.
Ramachandran told me next was even more astonishing And it's amazing how there's a big chunk of that that's dedicated almost entirely to recognising faces And this is because human beings, primates in general, are highly visual creatures So think of the millions of faces you've seen in a lifetime All that information gets stored in this region This face recognition centre sits here at the back of the brain and in an area only a few cm wide we store the images of billions of faces And just as important as it is for a child to recognise its parent, it's also important for every parent to recognise their child One of these young women is my daughter dad,can I have some money? take it.
Thank you because I recognise her face as well Imagine, however, not being able to recognise one of your own children One of the first instances where l realised that I didn't recognise faces was when my son was standing in front of a store with two friends, I figured I have to know at least one of these three kids So I was studying their faces as I walked directly towards them I had no idea who any of them were until the one in the centre went Hi Dad Hi Dad Jim lost the ability to recognize faces 5 years ago, following a brain operation to remove a massive blood clot Trying to find someone, no matter how well I know them, is an impossible task for me I've had to go to the beach to look for the kids Well how do I find my two kids out of all of these people on the beach? There has been a few occasions that my dad got myself and a friend confused like he didn't know which one was me It's strange It's hard because you want your parent to know what you look like It is kind of upsetting in a way because he can't look at me and see how I've grown during the past five years He can't see exactly what I look like You know like, when you look at me you can see my whole face in one picture: you can see if I have small ears, big ears, a small nose, what colour my eyes are He has to, he would have to look at you closely He could look at your left eye, then he could look at your nose, then he could look at your lips and your mouth, but his problem is that you can't put it all together into one picture I don't even notice that people have faces I accept the fact they do and then I'll look where I know the face belongs but there's never any recognition there One crucial part of the recognizing system of his brain is missing Every time we see a face our brain automatically checks it against the billions of faces stored in our memory to try and Jim still has a databank of faces stored in his brain from before the accident he just can't access them OK Jim here's another photograph - can you tell me what you see Uh oh.
I know the smile but I no idea whose smile it is This is roughly how Jim sees faces - can you guess who it is? Let me give you the names of a few people and see if anyone rings a bell for you with regard to this photograph OK? Hillary Clinton, Goldie Hawn, Princess Diana Any of those names ring a bell? All of those names rang a bell but not in connection with that photograph Well if you had to guess between Hillary Clinton and Princess Diana, what would be your guess? If one of those names is correct, I'll go by hair colour and say Hillary Clinton Well it's not Hillary Clinton OK well that narrowed the list didn't it? I guess like a lot of other things I never realized how important facial recognition was until I lost it Being able to match any new face we see against the ones already stored in our memory is such an important skill we're even teaching it to machines Here in Newham in East London, they're using state of the art computer technology to clamp down on crime They've stored images of the faces of hundreds of known criminals And by scanning the streets with CCTV cameras their face recognition software can check faces in the crowd within seconds to see just who's out there To see how good this machine brain is at recognising faces, I've volunteered to put it to the test Do you want to see my upper class brother "Oi I say.
" My name is Jasper, Jasper Cleese The computer's interested in my vital statistics nothing too exciting measurements like the distance between my eyes are stored as well as my mugshot Once the camera homes in on my face the computer measures it and searches the database for a match The actual speed of the solution can be as fast as fifteen million faces a minute that's how many is can search through It's got me But will it spot my cross-dressing? One last disguise Bingo - I've fooled the machine John had a hat that was pulled down very much over his eyes, and then made worse by these very very dark glasses, and the glasses had quite a large frame so we ended up almost losing really what's our key area But none of you were fooled by my silly sunglasses and hat, were you? The machine was fooled because it relies on measuring features The fact that none of us was fooled shows that we recognise faces in a different way from machines Our brains operate in a more, how shall I put it, artistic way This is the face of a well known British celebrity - do you recognise him? is it getting any easier? Isn't it strange that its much easier for the brain to recognize an exaggerated caricature of the face than a more accurate line drawing So why do we find it so much easier to recognise a caricature? Some experts believe its because that's how the brain itself works It wouldn't surprise me at all if what the artist is doing is actually mimicking the very processes that are going on in your own brain when you look at any person And what the brain seems to be doing every time it looks at a face is searching for differences from the norm Its looking for features that it can exaggerate and caricature to help it remember the person next time This theory is new and it strikes a chord with professional caricaturists like Tim Watts I think in caricature you can unlock or heighten or underline what it is about that person's face which makes them different from another person I think what's going on is your brain is in a sense producing an internal caricature In fact there have been experiments showing that you recognise caricatures faster and more accurately than the original that was shown to you So here are Prince Charles and George W.
But what about my face? John Cleese has a sort of banana shaped face His chin comes up at the bottom and his forehead sort of comes over at the top here, which creates a sort of moon, crescent moon shape, not quite Mister Punch cos he hasn't got the hooked nose of Punch His chin is large, but it's not large in a Kirk Douglas or Errol Flynn type way, it does have something of an underhang as well Well, of course, what's really good about it is that he looks so young then there's the big chin I'm surprised he got that And with caricature you can't make everything big, you can't exaggerate everything, so with Cleese something has to give and in his instance it's the nose, the nose becomes smaller and more sort of delicate The nose is very good, rather pointed, a little bit like a rodent I think with Cleese probably most people think of Basil Fawlty so it has a severity about the expression, the bulging eyes But can the puppet do this? So we store our memories of peoples faces up here as their caricatures And then we match that caricature to the particular face we're looking at Except that I think there's something missing.
And I want to check it out What's missing is emotion We all know that we react differently to different peoples' faces so I'm off to meet a woman who's going to give me a sort of lie detector test to see which faces really affect me and which leave me cold So why don't you give me your left hand and what I'm going to do first is just wipe off some dead skin cells that way we get a better connection Poor dead skin cells Carrie attaches electrodes to my skin to measure how sweaty it gets when I get emotional The results are shown on a computer screen Unfortunately being a typical uptight Englishman there's not much going on at the moment But Carrie thinks she can get me more excited So why don't you recount your most vivid recent fantasy for us My most vivid recent fantasy was of West Ham United beating Leeds United 7 - 0 at Elland Road And that was, boy that was good Di Canio got 4 That was a recent sexual fantasy? No,no sexual,you say fantasy the sexual fantasy Recent sexual fantasy Maggie Thatcher Alright I'll think of something really nice Suitable to the television audience Oh, I have to say it out loud Yeah, part of the embarrassment so you can see your response going up Its disappeared right off the screen! That was terrific and I hadn't even started yet Enough of my offbeat fantasies, time to get on with the test When I react positively or negatively to a face the line should jump My daughter's face is the first face to provoke a reaction Iots and lots of emotion That's a great face - looks so English - weird creature - Saddam Hussein I looked at and didn't feel as antagonistic to him as I expected I would have That's interesting because that was one of the pictures you recognised that you didn't get a response to The positive one's the Dalai Lama You got a big response to the Dalai Lama Yeah - he touches everyone Your body almost seemed to relax when you were looking at the Dalai Lama that you got a very large response, I think to him and your daughter and Jerry Springer those were your largest reactions Rather insane to react more strongly to Jerry Springer than to Hitler and Saddam Hussein So the emotional responses we have to some faces are not always the ones we would predict And it turns out that this emotion can be so strong that it actually affects our ability to recognise someone And we know this because of a young man who had a very nasty car accident I was sitting in the back The car tried to go a little bit towards the left to avoid this other car and it flipped three times and one of those flips I went flying out of the car and I landed partly on my head in the highway David spent the next three weeks critically ill in a coma Because the visual part of his brain was damaged David couldn't recognize his family and friends But most of his friends came to visit and he didn't know who they were He forgot his girlfriend he had a wonderful girlfriend, and they were very much in love and he didn't know who she was But that wasn't the whole story it was much stranger than that David became convinced that his parents had been replaced by aliens He was in the hospital, I would go in and talk to him and he wouldn't even call me mother or anything and not only that but after five minutes if I would go outside and come back five minutes afterwards he would then just think I was someone different David's is the only case like this that Dr.
Ramachandran has come across Certain patients who've been in a car accident, for example, and have had a head injury and they've been in a coma for a couple of weeks and they come out of this coma, they seem completely normal in most respects They can talk fluently, they can read a book, and their memory seems intact, right? But the patient looks at his mother and he says "Doctor, this woman looks exactly like my mother, but she is not my mother, she is some other woman pretending to be my mother: she's an imposter John let me introduce you to David and Rosita How are you? Fine old but good Hi.
Nice to meet you The strangest thing was one day he told me, it was evening time and I was preparing dinner And he said you know the lady who comes in the morning and cooks breakfast cooks so much better than you do and it was me all the time I was the one With his dad too he had a similar experience As I recall When you first came here and your dad had brought you here I remember you were denying it was your dad, you were saying it was some other old man who brought you here and I asked you why this man should be here and you said no, no he just takes care of me He used to tell me I'm going to tell my dad that you don't drive as well as he does I wanted him to meet him Because it will some day get him to drive correctly like my father does Go forbid about that It was hard to believe what I was hearing After the accident, David honestly believed that his parents had been replaced by complete strangers who just happened to look like his father and mother But how is it that when David looks at his mother he sees a stranger who looks exactly like her what's going on inside his head? Well, every time David looks at his mother's face, the information is passed to the face recognition centre in the brain So far, so good.
Then that information should travel on to another area of the brain so that her face can be given the appropriate emotional tag It's the combination of the two which assures him he's looking at his mother And this is where David's problems started the car accident damaged the link between the two areas So because the face area of the brain is intact he can still say whose face it is He'll say "it's my mother's face.
" But because the wire going from there is cut there's no emotional response to his mother So he says, "My god, if this is my mother, why is there no warmth, why is there no terror? Why don't I experience any emotions when I see my mother, so this must be some other strange woman pretending to be my mother It's 5 years since David's accident and he's made a remarkable recovery He's a different person from what he was five years ago He knows who his sisters are He knows who the people around him are The emotional charge that we get when we recognise a face is so important to us that if a familiar face doesn't trigger the appropriate response our brain comes up with this extraordinary rationalisation this must be an imposter What happened to David shows that too little emotion is a big problem when it comes to recognising faces So do strong emotions mess up our perceptions? What happens say if we're the victim of some brutal crime? I had gone to bed early that evening and around three thirty was awakened by a sound Someone jumped on me and pinned my hands beside my head And I realised very quickly that it wasn't someone I knew And he proceeded to rape me First of all I tried to adjust my eyes to whatever Iight was coming through my windows And then I just studied his face for scars or tattoos or jewellery or facial hair I probably had about 1 5 to 20 minutes of total time that I looked at him and I really tried hard to look at him, even though you don't want to, I did try very hard to keep focused and, and look at him Jennifer managed to escape from her attacker and describe him to the police I thought Jennifer was an outstanding witness for a number of reasons She was able to articulate extremely well what happened to her during the course of the sexual assault In addition to that she was able to vividly provide a description of her assailant Jennifer went through the standard police procedure, describing her assailant and then creating an identikit picture of him feature by feature It was not easy - it was very difficult I really never understood how many nostrils there are in the world, how many bridges of the nose There's just so much involved in a facial description But once we were done I felt fairly confident that he, that the picture that we came up with was as close to the person who assaulted me as I could possibly get Within two days of the investigation there were six individuals who had surfaced as suspects We developed a photo line up involving those 6 individuals Jennifer identified a young black man called Ronald Cotton as the man who raped her Two days later she was asked to come to a line up at the local police station Once again she picked out Ronald Cotton Even though she was severely traumatised Jennifer was determined to testify at the trial Well I was very certain that was the person Rage was filling up in inside of me and so I think that I was very anxious to go ahead and proceed with the trial and see the man who attacked me serve his life sentence in jail At the trial in January 1 985 Ronald Cotton was convicted of rape and sentenced to life But Ronald had always protested his innocence And once inside Central Prison in North Carolina an extraordinary coincidence occured which would change the course of his case His cell mate Bobby Poole was openly bragging to the other prisoners that he had raped Jennifer Bobby Poole did resemble the composite drawing, without question But there are thousands of black males in this case who would in fact Iook like or resemble the composite drawing So that didn't force me to waver in my confidence of her identification In the appeal court Jennifer was confronted with both Ronald and Bobby and again asked to identify the man who raped her When I saw both of them together I remember looking at Bobby Poole and not recognising him at all I mean that was of course one of the first questions is "do you recognise that man?" I said, "No, I've never seen him before in my life" Jennifer's eye witness testimony was so strong that Ronald was sent back to prison for another 8 years It wasn't until the new science of DNA testing was developed that her evidence was questioned A long forgotten sperm sample proved conclusively that Bobby Poole had indeed raped Jennifer She had identified the wrong man For the first time in a long time, you're walking out of here a free man With those words 33 year old Ronald Cotton was free for the first time in years I don't think I'd ever felt so ashamed and, and guilt ridden, and I guess part of me was - I mean l, l, I felt very, almost like I hadembarrassed, I, I think - embarrassed that I had made such a huge mistake and that mistake had impacted Ronald Cotton for those eleven years I mean significantly impacted Ronald Cotton for those eleven years So how did Jennifer get it so wrong? Well it seems that while her emotions were still running high she saw a face she thought looked familiar From that moment on her emotions imprinted that face deep into her brain So deeply that when she saw the face of the man who really raped her she felt nothing Now I realise that, that our minds are not video tapes, and we can't record something and then spit it back exactly as we saw it But it wasn't just the trauma of being raped the colour of the face she was trying to recognise made a crucial difference I think trauma definitely had a part to play in that: but I also think that the racial differences had probably more to do, in my case, than almost anything I think that, that races have a very difficult time recognising differences in other races So if we know someone well, we're actually very good at recognising them even from a bad angle and in dodgy light But if we've only seen them once or twice we're really not very good especially if they're fases of a kind we're not familiar with "they all look the same to me" syndrome Then our recognition skills are in big trouble To a black person the differences between Bobby and Ronald's faces are probably obvious But to Jennifer they weren't Her brain focussed on the most obvious feature of the face - its colour This tendency to simplify seems to be the part of the way we're designed I think there is a general tendency in the visual system indeed in the brain to classify objects into similar types versus dissimilar types the brain is doing this all the time to economise on visual information processing to simplify the world and if this process gets deranged it could manifest as racism because instead of seeing the whole person single visual prototype somebody who is black or somebody who is Chinese and then you start making overgeneralisation from that one prototype Lisa's aware of these racial judgements and has had surgery to change her eyes and nose to fit in with her Caucasian friends No one has ever said to me you're the only Mexican girl hanging around all these white people, it just makes me more comfortable It's 6 weeks since her surgery We just recently went out with a bunch of friends and it was a great opportunity for all of us to get dressed up and go out I have to tell you I felt so good you know some people may have said its very subtle but when I look at myself I definitely see a big difference Its exactly what I wanted its thinner I've got a great profile and I just feel it definitely enhances my face Not to sound very snobbish I love it, it's exactly what I wanted So it was obviously the right decision for Lisa But some of us are brave enough to stand out from the crowd One of the things that I have shouted at me, when I walk down the street is oi fat chin, why don't you go and see a plastic surgeon? I've had that said to me for years, for most of my life There were times when I though yeah I should see a doctor I want my chin to be small, so I don't ever have to go through that kind of abuse again But then l, I thought to myself well I'm not doing anything wrong looking like this: this is the face that I have, and I don't want to change it because this is me, you know I've grown up with this face: to me it's not just a face, it's kind of like a mark of identity or something So much, much better to look extraordinary cos there ain't many people in the world that look like me We should challenge the judgements we make based on people's faces we're often wrong Most people think that I must have served time in prison I must be some kind of hooligan I do get harassed quite often.
At first a lot of people think I'm stuck up or they're afraid to approach me when they get to know me they see a whole different person The attitude people have if you look this way you got to be bad I'm really nice just trying to get along with everybody So the face merely gives us a few clues to start with after that we have to check the person out properly Isn't that a bit obvious, isn't it? What? was it the best that you come up with? I thought it's rather interesting.
I hope next week programme is better.
Actually next week show is rather good.
infact it's so good I can't wait whole week to show you So, here is now