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Lisa Hill, Mark Scase; Removing individual features from famous faces: The development of a novel test. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):895. doi: 10.1167/8.6.895.
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Exploring the impact that individual features have upon face recognition can provide insight into the areas of prosopagnosia, unimpaired face recognition ability and eyewitness identification. We tested the recognition abilities of 96 psychology undergraduate students on a series of eight famous faces within the categories of sports professionals, royals, actors, musicians, politicians and models. Stimuli were selected from celebrities who were living and had currently featured or been featured regularly in the international media over the past two decades. Each set of faces had either eyes, noses, mouths, external features (hair and ears), all internal features removed or remained unchanged (6 conditions in total). Images were displayed in colour and subtended 17.7 degrees. Each face was presented for 160ms (with an upper response level set at 10s) and reaction times for face recognition and naming were recorded. We found that removing hair had the greatest effect in impairing recognition; and considered the remaining features in terms of the perceptual hierarchy facilitating recognition. From these results, a novel test of famous face recognition has been developed. This test is a 4AFC task, where a series of 8 target famous faces are identified, some with features removed; with data providing insight into how individual features affect recognition within a variety of different cohorts (for example, whether individuals within specific cultural groups, sexes, age ranges, focus more on certain features than others). This technique can produce standardised versions of the test that are sensitive to their respective cohorts' perceptual experience, age and ethnicity. Versions of the test can also be constructed and applied in a clinical setting with the potential of yielding insight into prosopagnosia in terms of where fragmentation occurs in the perceptual process.
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