In the first week of the March 2019 COVID-19 lockdown, I found out that I had been awarded a Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust. The core research project on the grant seeks to understand how humans learn facial identities over time, and why some people (who have a condition known as “face blindness” or “prosopagnosia”) struggle with this task.
The project is particularly novel and ambitious because it seeks to emulate real-world face learning, which occurs during multiple social interactions with a person, extended over time. In contrast, most work to date has looked at face learning during a single session. Further, our methodology is necessarily laboratory-based, using eye-movement technology to track the progression of learning over time. Both repeat-testing and face-to-face testing are by no means conducive to the onset of a pandemic!
After several obvious delays to the project, we finally began testing at the beginning of July this year. With some novel obstacles to overcome amid the new COVID-19 risk assessments, it has nevertheless been an absolute pleasure to be back in the labs, meeting and testing participants. In fact, the new regulations pushed me back into the lab and the more hands-on aspects of research – not only have I enjoyed every minute of it but it has also made me reflect on the benefits of being more involved in this phase of the research cycle.
Because the project requires participants to visit the lab on five consecutive days (for approximately 50 minutes per day), there were moments where I thought the ambition in this project was too great for the current climate. We have certainly been interrupted by COVID and test and trace on several occasions! But thanks to the generosity and resilience of our participants and two exceptional student research assistants, we are coming close to our target sample size. This is in no small part thanks to the BU community, where we sourced the vast majority of our participants, and to whom we are extremely grateful.
We are now entering our last few weeks of data collection, before it is time to analyse the data and deliver the project outcomes to the Leverhulme Trust. If you can help us achieve this goal and are happy to take part in the study we would be delighted to hear from you. We are seeking Caucasian participants aged 30-59 years who can visit us on five consecutive days (evenings and weekends are available) in Poole House (Talbot Campus). We also award a £50 Amazon voucher to thank you for your time! We would be delighted to hear from anyone regardless of their face recognition ability – we still need a few more control participants, those with face blindness, and super-recognisers! You can contact me by email (email@example.com) if you are willing to take part, and please do feel free to share the opportunity both within and outside of BU.
Many thanks for reading this post, and I look forward to reporting the findings of the study in due course.