Reading Noses

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no baseball content here, but I promise it to be worthwhile -

We recognize people by their noses. This is a very interesting fact I am happy to enlighten you with thanks to a Michael Kesterton’s Social Studies blurb in Toronto’s Globe and Mail on March 31, 2009 that quotes Kurt Kleiner’s report in Scientific American Mind:

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, showed subjects' faces on a computer screen and tracked their eye movements. They found that most people look first just to the left of the nose, then to the centre of the nose, then to the eyes. The first look was enough for people to recognize a face more than half the time, the second look increased accuracy, but the third did not – those two glances at the nose were enough.”


I find this surprising for two reasons. I am quite sure the first thing I look at a person for recognition is their hair. Frequently, I will give someone a double glance if their hair looks familiar. That doesn't happen to me with eyes, noses, and chins. Secondly, when thinking about someone's face, I always have a generally strong image of what their eyes look like, but I could rarely ever describe their noses. Perhaps, it is a subconscious thing.


Some parts of the world do know people by their noses quite consciously. My father-in-law immigrated from a sizeable mountainous village in southern Italy to Canada in 1952. He returned there once around 1980. My wife's nose has character – not startling, but not quiet either - a distinctive shape and she inherited it from her father. Each of my father-in-law's brothers and sisters followed him to Canada except one. That brother had a similarly shaped nose. My wife's first visit to her father's village was with me in 1986. We stopped at a gas station on the outskirts of the village to ask for directions to the road where her uncle's farm was located. The middle aged attendant and my wife chatted awhile in Italian, then I saw him reach in the car and make a gesture just above her nose. He had actually guessed just by my wife's nose that she was the daughter of my father-in-law.

John Carter