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Never forget a face? A new study from McMaster University in Ontario finds that women may be better at remembering faces than men, partly because they spend more time observing features, a technique researchers say can help improve anyone’s memory.

The findings help to answer long-standing questions about why some people can remember faces easily while others quickly forget someone they’ve just met, the researchers said.

“The way we move our eyes across a new individual’s face affects our ability to recognise that individual later,” said head researcher Jennifer Heisz of McMaster University.

“Our findings provide new insights into the potential mechanisms of episodic memory and the differences between the sexes,” she added. “We discovered that women look more at new faces than men do, which allows them to create a richer and more superior memory.”

In the study, the researchers enlisted eye-tracking technology to monitor where 80 study participants (40 men, 40 women) looked — be it eyes, nose or mouth — while they were shown a series of randomly selected faces on a computer screen. Each face was assigned a name that participants were asked to remember.

One group of subjects was tested over the course of one day, another group tested over the course of four days.

“We found that women fixated on the features far more than men, but this strategy operates completely outside of our awareness,” Heisz added. “Individuals don’t usually notice where their eyes fixate, so it’s all subconscious.”

Still, men could learn this trick themselves to boost memory, they added. “The results open the possibility that changing our eye movement pattern may lead to better memory,” said coauthor and psychology professor David Shore.
“Increased scanning may prove to be a simple strategy to improve face memory in the general population, especially for individuals with memory impairment like older adults.”

The findings, announced June 4, appear online in the journal Psychological Science. – AFP RELAX NEWS