Why are the faces of primates (and people!) so dramatically different from one another?

Biologists working as "evolutionary detectives" studied the faces of 129 adult male primates from Central and South America in search of some answers, and discovered that faces they studied evolved over at least 24 million years.

Science Daily quotes evolutionary biologist Michael Alfaro as saying, "If you look at New World primates, you’re immediately struck by the rich diversity of faces. You see bright red faces, moustaches, hair tufts and much more. There are unanswered questions about how faces evolve and what factors explain the evolution of facial features. We’re very visually oriented, and we get a lot of information from the face." read more

After Anne Strieber’s stroke, she found she had trouble recognizing faces and finding her way around, a problem that eventually went away. Researches think both talents are based in our genes. This is one of the subjects she discusses with Russell Targ on this week’s Dreamland. Come talk to Anne in person in June!
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a SECRET about you! – A quick glance at the shape of someone’s face may be enough to predict their tendency towards aggression.

Facial width-to-height ratio (WHR) is determined by measuring the distance between the right and left cheeks and the distance from the upper lip to the mid-brow. During childhood, boys and girls have similar facial structures, but during puberty, males develop a greater WHR than females. Previous research has suggested that males with a larger WHR act more aggressively than those with a smaller WHR. For example, studies have shown that hockey players with greater WHR earn more penalty minutes per game than players with lower WHR.
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Speaking different languages is hard enough, but interpreting facial expressions differently only adds to the confusion when people from different places try to communicate! When Asians migrate to US and open small businesses, there is sometimes a lot of misunderstanding, because smiling at strangers is considered rude in many Asian countries, while Americans can be put off by what they perceive as coldness. This is just another example of the fact that different cultures read facial expressions differently.

On BBC News, Judith Burns reports that researchers discovered that Asians focus mainly on the eyes, Westerners scan the entire face, therefore they were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for “fear” as “surprise” and “disgust” as “anger.”
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