Memory for Faces, Best After Age 30

New research has discovered the talent for remembering faces peaks late, between the ages of 30 to 34. According to a report which will appear in the newest edition of the journal Cognition, the skill of recognizing unfamiliar faces is best done at a somewhat later age than most other cognitive skills.

Most experts believe that word skills, memory and other intellectual functions achieve peak performance in the early 20s of a person’s life. This the moment of full maturity, but before brain cell death begins to take its toll. Consistent with this belief is the fact that when tested for the ability to remember names and upside down faces, (a task which demands remembering of general visual patterns) people seem to do best at ages 23 or 24, according to Laura Germine of Harvard University, the leader of a team of psychology graduate students there.

But in a surprise result, the brain seems to need an additional ten years to get really good at face recognition, to being the best that it can be.
“Specialized face-processing in the brain may require an extended period of visual tuning during early adulthood to help individuals learn and recognize lots of different faces,” Germine says.