Course: PSY411
Instructor: Alexander Todorov
F 2017

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This upper level seminar attempts to synthesize research from multiple disciplines on how faces are represented in cognitive, computational, and neural systems. The seminar applies insights from these disciplines and social psychology to understand the foundations of social perception of faces. We will discuss multiple methods, including cognitive-behavioral measures, single unit recording, functional brain imaging, lesion studies, and computational modeling. The readings will include book chapters, original research reports, and review articles. The first part of the seminar is dedicated to foundational issues of the science of face perception. In the first few weeks, we will learn a) how perception of faces is unlike perception of any other object (week 1); b) how innately specified biases and early experiences shape face expertise (week 2); and about c) the set of neural regions that underlie face perception, as well as a fascinating disorder of face perception: prosopagnosia or face blindness (weeks 3 & 4). The second part of the seminar is dedicated to understanding social perception of faces. In the remaining weeks, we will learn about a) the history of the pseudoscience of physiognomy or the “art” of reading faces (week 5); b) consequences of first impressions in the real world (week 6); c) how to computationally model first impressions (week 7); d) the idiosyncratic contributions to first impressions (week 8); e) the state of evidence for the accuracy of first impressions (weeks 9 and 10); and f) recent artificial intelligence applications to face perception (week 11). In the final week, we’ll discuss your ideas about your final paper. An important objective of the seminar is to make you familiar with the methods of the interdisciplinary science of face perception. Every week, we will learn about different empirical methods used to investigate face perception. We will get to participate in behavioral studies, analyze empirical data using different statistical techniques, build simple computational models of social perception of faces, create face avatars to our taste, and witness noninvasive measurements of the brain in real time
Make sure you know how to critically analyze scientific literature.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

This class meets once a week for three hours, therefore, combining a mix of classroom discussion, presentations, and lecture material every week. It is helpful to come to each class having thoroughly read the all of the material, so much so that you understand all of the details of the readings.

Learning For and From Assignments

For the weekly assignments in the second half of the course, it is important that you are clear about the expectations and instructions of assignments. The more time you spend on the assignments, the more you will understand about various methods of face perception psychology. Also, for the critiques, it is important to be very skeptical of the readings.

External Resources

Face Value by Alexander Todorov

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This class is very interesting, although sometimes discussion can be dry. I would only take it if you are a psychology major or are absolutely interested in the subject.
Psychology of Face Perception

One thought on “Psychology of Face Perception

  • December 10, 2017 at 7:11 pm
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    Make sure you know how to critically analyze scientific literature.

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