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Maarten van der Smagt, Karin Gerrits, Tanja Nijboer; A role for color in memory for known and unknown faces?. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):571. doi: 10.1167/9.8.571.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Color information can improve performance in categorizing and naming (natural) scenes, yet impairs recognition performance in memorizing and detecting changes in images. Color has thus been proposed to specifically facilitate the detection of the gist of scene images, at a cost of details (Nijboer et al., 2008. Recognising the forest, but not the trees: An effect of colour on scene perception and recognition. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 741–752). Here we ask whether this shift towards processing of the gist also occurs for images of (famous or unknown) faces, as faces are generally thought to be processed in a more ‘holistic’ fashion (i.e. with less focus on the parts, or details).
Participants viewed a set of 80 face images (40 in color, 40 in grayscale, half of which of famous persons) during a study phase. Each image was presented for 1s, (500ms ISI). After the study phase and a 3-minute interval, each of these images was presented in the test phase as well, randomly interleaved with 80 new images. Half of the new images were different images of the same face, the others were images of completely new faces. Participants indicated for each image in the test phase whether it had been included in the study phase as well.
Hit Rate and False Alarm Rate for images of faces shown in color and grayscale were comparable, irrespective of whether they belonged to famous or unknown persons. Although Hit Rate was relatively low (possibly obscuring some of the effects), these results suggest that color information does not modulate the balance between processing gist or details of these images. Apparently, unlike scene images, images of both famous and unknown faces are processed in a similar manner at this level, irrespective of color information being present or not.
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