Human brain potential correlates of repetition priming in face and name recognition

Stefan R. Schweinberger*, Esther C. Pickering, A. Mike Burton, Jürgen M. Kaufmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

167 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated repetition priming in the recognition of famous people by recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and reaction times (RTs). Participants performed speeded two-choice responses depending on whether or not a stimulus showed a famous person. In Experiment 1, a facilitation was found in RTs to famous (but not to unfamiliar) faces when primed by the same face shown in an earlier priming phase of the experiment. In ERPs, an influence of repetition priming was observed neither for the N170 nor for a temporal N250 component which in previous studies had been shown to be sensitive to immediate face repetitions. ERPs to primed unfamiliar faces were more negative over right occipitotemporal areas than those to unprimed faces, but this effect was specific for repetitions of the same image, consistent with recent findings. In contrast, ERPs to primed familiar faces were more positive than those to unprimed faces at parietal sites from 500-600ms after face onset, and these priming effects were comparable regardless of whether the same or a different image of the celebrity had served as prime. In Experiment 2, similar results were found for name recognition - a facilitation in RTs to primed familiar but not unfamiliar names, and a parietal positivity to primed names around 500-600ms. ERP repetition effects showed comparable topographies for faces and names, consistent with the idea of a common underlying source. With reference to current models of face recognition, we suggest that these ERP repetition effects for familiar stimuli reflect a change in post-perceptual representations for people, rather than a neural correlate of recognition at a perceptual level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2057-2073
Number of pages17
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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