Why faces are and are not special: An effect of expertise

Why faces are and are not special: An effect of expertise,10.1037//0096-3445.115.2.107,Journal of Experimental Psychology-general,Rhea Diamond,Susan C

Why faces are and are not special: An effect of expertise   (Citations: 603)
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Recognition memory for faces is hampered much more by inverted presentation than is memory for any other material so far examined. The present study demonstrates that faces are not unique with regard to this vulnerability to inversion, The experiments also attempt to isolate the source of the inversion effect. In one experiment, use of stimuli (landscapes) in which spatial relations among elements are potentially important distinguishing features is shown not to guarantee a large inversion effect. Two additional experiments show that for dog experts sufficiently knowledgeable to individuate dogs of the same breed, memory for photographs of dogs of that breed is as disrupted by inversion as is face recognition. A final experiment indicates that the effect of orientation on memory for faces does not depend on inability to identify single features of these stimuli upside down. These experiments are consistent with the view that experts represent Items in memory in terms of distinguishing features of a different kind than do novices. Speculations as to the type of feature used and neuropsychological and developmental implications of this accomplishment are offered. Perception of human faces is strongly influenced by their ori- ognized upright (Carey, Diamond, & Woods, 1980; Hochberg & entation. Although inverted photographs of faces remain iden- Galper, 1967; Phillips & Rawles, 1979; Scapinello & Yarmey, tifiable, they lose expressive characteristics and become difficult 1970; Yin, 1969, 1970a). Moreover, there is considerable evidence or impossible to categorize in terms of age, mood, and attrac- that faces are more sensitive to inversion than are any other tiveness. Failure to recognize familiar individuals in photographs classes of stimuli, Yin (1969, 1970a) compared recognition viewed upside down is a well-known phenomenon (see, e.g., memory for several classes of familiar mono-oriented objects: Arnheim, 1954; Attneave, 1967; Brooks & Goldstein, 1963; human faces, houses, airplanes, stick figures of people in motion, Kohler, 1940; Rock, 1974; Yarmey, 1971). Rock argued that bridges, and costumes (17th and 18th century clothing from because the important distinguishing features of faces are rep- paintings). For all of these object classes, performance was better resented in memory with respect to the normal upright, an in- when stimuli were inspected and recognized upright than when verted face must be mentally righted before it can be recognized. they were inspected and recognized upside down. This suggests He showed that it is difficult to reorient stimuli that have multiple that knowledge about each class, represented in memory with parts, and especially difficult to recognize inverted stimuli in respect to the upright, is accessed during the representation of which distinguishing features involve relations among adjacent new instances of all of these classes. However, the advantage of contours. Faces appear rich in just this sort of distinguishing the upright orientation was much greater for faces than for any feature; on these grounds they might be expected to be especially other class. In Yin's studies, recognition of upright photographs vulnerable to inversion. Thompson's (1980) "Thatcher illusion" of faces exceeded recognition of inverted faces by more than 25 provides a striking demonstration that spatial relations among percentage points, whereas the effect of inversion on the other features crucial in the perception of upright faces are not apparent classes ranged from 2 to 10 percentage points. Other investigators when faces are upside down. also found that inversion detracts relatively little from recognition
Journal: Journal of Experimental Psychology-general - J EXP PSYCHOL-GEN , vol. 115, no. 2, pp. 107-117, 1986
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