Unfamiliar Face Perception

A. Mike Burton*, Rob Jenkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article describes some differences between familiar and unfamiliar face processing. It presents the evidence that unfamiliar face recognition is poor. Since this poor performance has implications both practically and theoretically, it is important to establish the facts. The article analyses reasons that people appear to have little insight into their own poor performance with unfamiliar faces, and some sectors of society seem so keen to use faces as a means of proving identity. It reviews some historical research comparing familiar and unfamiliar face processing. The study shows evidence for the assertion that despite eliminating the memory-load of normal eyewitness situations, it turns out that people are surprisingly bad at matching two images of the same unfamiliar person. Finally, it suggests that the modern tendency to conflate familiar and unfamiliar face processing, and to theorize about "face recognition" in general, lies at the heart of practical failures in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Face Perception
EditorsGillian Rhodes, Andy Calder, Mark Johnson, James V. Haxby
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
ISBN (Electronic)9780191743672
ISBN (Print)9780199559053
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Unfamiliar Face Perception'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this