The entry point of face recognition: evidence for face expertise

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2001 Sep;130(3):534-43. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.130.3.534.


Previous studies have shown that experts (e.g., birdwatchers) are as fast to recognize objects at subordinate levels of abstraction (e.g., robin) as they are to recognize the same object at the basic level (e.g., bird). As a test of face expertise, the current study found that adults identify faces more frequently (Experiment 1) and as quickly (Experiment 2) at the subordinate level (e.g., Bill Clinton) as at the basic level (e.g., human). Whereas brief presentation (75 ms) impaired subordinate-level recognition of nonface objects, it did not impair the subordinate level recognition of faces (Experiment 3). Finally, in an identity-matching task, subordinate-level primes facilitated the matching responses of faces but not nonface objects (Experiment 4). Collectively, these results indicate that face expertise, like expert object expertise, promotes a downward shift in recognition to more subordinate levels of abstraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time