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Heather Buttle, Julie East; Traditional facial tattoos disrupt face recognition processes. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):262. doi: 10.1167/8.6.262.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Presentation changes can potentially disrupt the ability to efficiently process faces. Specifically, inverting faces has long been known to disrupt configural processes leading to deterioration in recognition performance, as does scrambling, exploding, and misaligning face images. Unlike most changes in facial appearance (e.g. hairstyle), which involve feature changes, extensive facial tattoos are likely to involve configural changes as well. Here we show that the application of facial tattoos, in the form of curvilinear lines and spiral patterns (typically associated with the Maori tradition of Moko), disrupt face recognition to a similar extent as face inversion, with recognition accuracy little better than chance performance (2AFC). These results indicate that, unlike most other modes of altering our facial appearance, facial tattoos can severely disrupt our ability to recognise a face that previously did not have the pattern. This occurred for faces that were fully patterned and for those faces that were only partially patterned (i.e. forehead, nose, and chin). Given that there is a resurgence of interest in traditional facial markings and that tattoos continue to become increasingly more accepted in the West, these results raise issues as to how would-be wearers and their associates can best evaluate and prepare themselves for such a dramatic transformation!
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