What makes the human face so compelling?
“Even newborns are drawn to faces. In a classic study by Robert Fantz, young infants stared twice as long at a black-and-white simplified human face than black-and-white concentric circles. Even though a bull’s-eye target is eye-catching, babies spent twice as much time gazing at a simplified face.
The vision of the newborn is sharpest at about 8 inches away—perfect for gazing at a caregiver’s face while feeding. This is an important face to learn by heart, for provision of all the basic needs of life. By around eight months, infants search the faces of those they trust for clues as to whether something new is safe to explore—or a threat from which to quickly withdraw (social referencing).
The ability to orient to, and accurately read, human faces has high survival value throughout our lives. We must register quickly if there is a stranger in our midst, and sense if this is a friendly or threatening presence. In short, we may be hard-wired to focus on faces as they provide information that is fundamentally important to our physical and social survival.”