Is Face Recognition Different from Object Recognition?

It is widely speculated that face recognition is special from object recognition because it is dominantly processed by the fusiform face area (FFA) of the brain. However, this idea is challenged by prominent neuroscientist Garrison Cottrell, who lectured on the topic of “Investigating Human Perception with Neurocomputational Models” at NYU Shanghai on September 22nd. Through computational models, he demonstrates that FFA could also be recruited for the recognition of other non-face domains given individuals are trained with sufficient experience. As a result, there is nothing special about face recognition, it is the way through which we interpret faces with fine-level discrimination that really matters.

Professor Cottrell is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The University California, San Diego (UCSD). He is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science at UCSD, and the Director of the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center, an NSF-sponsored Science of Learning Center involving 40 PI's at 18 institutions in four countries. 

Aside from speaking at the first session of this academic year’s monthly Shanghai Colloquium in Neuroeconomics, Professor Cottrell also had lunch with NYU Shanghai students from related majors, as part of the colloquium series’ tradition. “The student lunch is really helpful for establishing close connections with top scientists,” commented Xiangci Li, a NYU Shanghai undergraduate student.

Launches into its second year, the Neuroeconomics Colloquium Series continues to enthrall intellectuals in the broad Shanghai area with the cutting-edge research topics in neuroeconomics from the world’s leading scientists. “I have been attending the colloquium series since last academic year, it has always been a rewarding experience as I am constantly able to embark inspirations from those scientists’ findings and relate them to my own research projects.” Commented a participant from East China Normal University.

About the Neuroeconomics Colloquium Series

Neuroeconomics is a rapidly growing academic discipline focused on understanding how and why humans and animals make the decisions that they do. Combining approaches from Economics, Psychology, Neuroscience and Anthropology, the discipline unites scholars from across the academic spectrum to understand how human beings make decisions with an aim towards treating pathology, understanding consumer behavior and developing better public policies. To stimulate the development of the discipline and foster collaborations, the Shanghai Neuroeconomics Collective was formed and is sponsored by the NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU Shanghai and the Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision Making at NYU.

Up till now, the Colloquium Series has invited prominent speakers such as Paul Glimcher,  Director of the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision Making, Julius Silver Professor of Neural Science and a Professor of Economics and Psychology at NYU and Michael Platt, James S. Riepe University Professor, Professor of Marketing, Professor of Neuroscience, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and the President of the Society for Neuroeconomics.

This year the series continue to have world renowned scientists such as Takao Hensch, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Ming Hsu, Associate Professor at Haas School of Business and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.


To see a full list of the Neuroeconomics Colloquium Series, please visit

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Written by the Office of Research