Recognizing unfamiliar faces: the effects of distinctiveness and view

Q J Exp Psychol A. 1999 May;52(2):509-34. doi: 10.1080/713755813.


Three experiments are reported in which the effects of viewpoint on the recognition of distinctive and typical faces were explored. Specifically, we investigated whether generalization across views would be better for distinctive faces than for typical faces. In Experiment 1 the time to match different views of the same typical faces and the same distinctive faces was dependent on the difference between the views shown. In contrast, the accuracy and latency of correct responses on trials in which two different faces were presented were independent of viewpoint if the faces were distinctive but were view-dependent if the faces were typical. In Experiment 2 we tested participants' recognition memory for unfamiliar faces that had been studied at a single three-quarter view. Participants were presented with all face views during test. Finally, in Experiment 3, participants' were tested on their recognition of unfamiliar faces that had been studied at all views. In both Experiments 2 and 3 we found an effect of distinctiveness and viewpoint but no interaction between these factors. The results are discussed in terms of a model of face representation based on an inter-item similarity in which the representations are view specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*