A Robust Neural Index of High Face Familiarity

Holger Wiese*, Simone C. Tüttenberg, Brandon T. Ingram, Chelsea Y.X. Chan, Zehra Gurbuz, A. Mike Burton, Andrew W. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Humans are remarkably accurate at recognizing familiar faces, whereas their ability to recognize, or even match, unfamiliar faces is much poorer. However, previous research has failed to identify neural correlates of this striking behavioral difference. Here, we found a clear difference in brain potentials elicited by highly familiar faces versus unfamiliar faces. This effect starts 200 ms after stimulus onset and reaches its maximum at 400 to 600 ms. This sustained-familiarity effect was substantially larger than previous candidates for a neural familiarity marker and was detected in almost all participants, representing a reliable index of high familiarity. Whereas its scalp distribution was consistent with a generator in the ventral visual pathway, its modulation by repetition and degree of familiarity suggests an integration of affective and visual information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-272
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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