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Isabelle Buelthoff, Fiona N. Newell; Distinctive auditory information improves visual face recognition. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/4.8.139.
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Face recognition studies have shown that distinctiveness can improve recognition. Distinctiveness effects have also been found in stimuli other than faces suggesting that it is a general mechanism. Here we tested cross-modal effects of distinctiveness and asked whether distinctive voices can improve memory for otherwise typical faces. In all experiments participants first learned a set of static, unfamiliar faces. During learning, half of these faces were paired with distinctive voices and half were paired with typical voices. Face stimuli were counterbalanced across these voice conditions. In Experiment 1 we found that recognition performance in a visual recognition test was significantly (p<0.005) better for faces that had been paired with the distinctive voices than those paired with typical voices. In Experiment 2, we tested whether voice information improved face recognition directly by association or whether distinctiveness effects were due to enhanced attention during learning. We conducted a priming experiment and found that participants recognized a face significantly faster (p<0.05) when this face was preceded by its congruent voice than when the face was preceded by an incongruent or new voice. This result suggests that the quality of information in one modality, i.e., audition, can affect recognition in another modality, i.e., vision. Further experiments are planned to test whether voices and faces represent a special case of cross-modal memory enhancement due to long term association or whether this effect occurs with other arbitrary associations.
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