A familiarity disadvantage for remembering specific images of faces

Regine G.M. Armann, Rob Jenkins, A. Mike Burton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Familiar faces are remembered better than unfamiliar faces. Furthermore, it is much easier to match images of familiar than unfamiliar faces. These findings could be accounted for by quantitative differences in the ease with which faces are encoded. However, it has been argued that there are also some qualitative differences in familiar and unfamiliar face processing. Unfamiliar faces are held to rely on superficial, pictorial representations, whereas familiar faces invoke more abstract representations. Here we present 2 studies that show, for 1 task, an advantage for unfamiliar faces. In recognition memory, viewers are better able to reject a new picture, if it depicts an unfamiliar face. This rare advantage for unfamiliar faces supports the notion that familiarity brings about some representational changes, and further emphasizes the idea that theoretical accounts of face processing should incorporate familiarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-580
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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