Remembering facial configurations

Vicki Bruce*, Tony Doyle, Neal Dench, Mike Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Eight experiments are reported showing that subjects can remember rather subtle aspects of the configuration of facial features to which they have earlier been exposed. Subjects saw several slightly different configurations (formed by altering the relative placement of internal features of the face) of each of ten different faces, and they were asked to rate the apparent age and masculinity-femininity of each. Afterwards, subjects were asked to select from pairs of faces the configuration which was identical to one previously rated. Subjects responded strongly to the central or "prototypical" configuration of each studied face where this was included as one member of each test pair, whether or not it had been studied (Experiments 1, 2 and 4). Subjects were also quite accurate at recognising one of the previously encountered extremes of the series of configurations that had been rated (Experiment 3), but when unseen prototypes were paired with seen exemplars subjects' performance was at chance (Experiment 5). Prototype learning of face patterns was shown to be stronger than that for house patterns, though both classes of patterns were affected equally by inversion (Experiment 6). The final two experiments demonstrated that preferences for the prototype could be affected by instructions at study and by whether different exemplars of the same face were shown consecutively or distributed through the study series. The discussion examines the implications of these results for theories of the representation of faces and for instance-based models of memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-144
Number of pages36
JournalCognition
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1991
Externally publishedYes

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