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Journal Article

A familiarity disadvantage for remembering specific images of faces


Armann,  RGM
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Armann, R., Jenkins, R., & Burton, A. (2016). A familiarity disadvantage for remembering specific images of faces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42(4), 571-580. doi:10.1037/xhp0000174.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-79DC-1
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.