How do we place the face?

A University of Aberdeen researcher will lead a discussion into how we remember faces, and specifically, how we remember where we saw them.

In the latest instalment of the popular Café Scientifique series, Dr Margaret Jackson, Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Aberdeen, will describe her research into how we remember where we saw certain faces, and how certain emotional expressions influence this memory.

Dr Jackson uses cutting-edge touchscreen and eye tracking technology to measure how accurate people are at remembering the location of faces, particularly those faces showing threatening expressions such as anger.

Dr. Jackson said: “It is fundamental to normal, human interaction that we are able to read other people’s facial expressions so we can infer what they are feeling.  This is particularly important for anger which signals hostility or aggression and threatens our physical and emotional welfare. However, facial expressions are fleeting, so it is essential that we clearly and accurately remember who expressed an emotion and where that person is so that we can respond in an appropriate way.”

As well as adding to current knowledge of human memory, attention, and cognitive processes, this research can be applied to a varied audience.

Dr Jackson added: “The need to interpret social situations correctly and respond appropriately affects us all, and it impacts not only our close relationships with family and friends, but also communications with others in the wider world such as at work, school, university, the local shop, and even the stranger on the street.

It is hoped that this research may be useful in helping to understand how social skills and mood may impact on memory for face location.   Given that this type of memory is crucial for social functioning – identifying individual differences in these systems may be of particular benefit to people with impairments in social processing such as autism.“

The event is part of the University of Aberdeen’s popular Cafe Scientifique series which is hosted by the University’s Public Engagement with Research Unit. The popular Café Scientifique series, invites leading experts to share the latest in scientific research with the public in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. This is set to be an informal and inspiring night aimed at the general public with plenty of time for questions. The event will be held at 7pm in Waterstones on Wednesday 19th August and is free to attend.

Full details of the series and other events in the University’s wider programme can be found at The series is supported by a science engagement grant from the Scottish Government.