Recognising flipped famous faces has links to mental health

Individuals with BDD are more likely to identify upside-down images of famous faces as they focus on individual features rather than process them as a whole. Image courtesy of Pete Souza and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

(Medical Xpress) -- According to researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, individuals with the mental health problem Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) cannot accurately detect negative facial emotions but they have an amazing ability to recognise famous faces - when they are upside-down.

Upside-down faces are difficult for most people to identify because we are used to processing them as a whole, and the right way up. Individuals with BDD, however, process the faces in a different way because they overly-focus on the individual .

Professor Keith Laws, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at the University said: “People with have an obsession relating to their body image, where they believe that they have a defect in their appearance. Often they are attractive individuals who focus negatively on specific features of their own body, especially their face. Indeed, up to 15% of people who seek cosmetic surgery meet the criteria for a BDD diagnosis.”

The researchers found that because BDD patients focus on individual facial features rather than the whole face, this aids their ability to recognize inverted famous faces, for example they may be intimate with David Beckham’s eyes or Angelina Jolie’s lips. By contrast, they have difficulty recognising negative and threatening facial expressions because they may imagine that most other people are looking at them as critically as they view themselves.

BDD is estimated to affect one to two per cent of the population. Individuals with BDD engage with time-consuming compulsive behaviours such as mirror-checking, applying make-up to camouflage and seeking reassurance about their appearance. Professor Laws and colleagues are now looking at whether the super-recogniser abilities of BDD patients may act as a marker for the disorder and whether this advantage exists to a milder form in the relatives of those with BDD.

The paper will be published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

Related Stories

Does cosmetic surgery help body dysmorphic disorder?

Aug 11, 2010

A new study finds that while many who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) seek cosmetic procedures, only two percent of procedures actually reduced the severity of BDD. Despite this poor long-term outcome, physicians ...

Recommended for you

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

23 minutes ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

Meaningful relationships can help you thrive

Aug 29, 2014

Deep and meaningful relationships play a vital role in overall well-being. Past research has shown that individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health, higher levels of subjective well-being ...

User comments