The processing and recognition of human emotions
Cognitive processes are activated by the "face-like" object, which alert the observer to both the emotional state and identity of the subject, even before the conscious mind begins to process or even receive the information. The "stick figure face", despite its simplicity, conveys mood information (in this case, disappointment or mild unhappiness). It would be just as simple to draw a stick figure face that would be perceived (by most people) as hostile and aggressive. This robust and subtle capability is hypothesized to be the result of eons of natural selection favoring people most able to quickly identify the mental state, for example, of threatening people, thus providing the individual an opportunity to flee or attack pre-emptively. In other words, processing this information subcortically — therefore subconsciously — before it is passed on to the rest of the brain for detailed processing accelerates judgment and decision making when a fast reaction is needed. This ability, though highly specialized for the processing and recognition of human emotions, also functions to determine the demeanor of wildlife.