In one of the experiments, Israeli people could match Israeli names to faces, and French people could do the same for their own countrymen. But Israelis apparently had no idea what a “Pierre” looks like, and the French couldn’t peg Israeli names to faces either. “That suggests it’s something culturally specific,” Mondloch says.
And in another experiment, the researchers trained a computer to find similarities in thousands of faces of people with the same name. The algorithm found that people with the same name tend to have similarities around their eyes or at the corners of their mouths. “You can see it’s the places with different expressions or most of our expressions,” Zwebner says. Using that information, the robot could match a face to the correct name about 60 percent of the time when given two options.
Zwebner speculates that people might be using their facial muscles to conform appearance to name. Imagine someone with the name “Joy,” for instance, Zwebner says. “The moment she’s born, her parents and society treat her in a way that befits that name. The say, you really are so joyful, smiling just like your name. She develops a certain look maybe because she is smiling more because of all the positive feedback she gets when she smiles.”