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Psychon Bull Rev. 2008 Aug;15(4):787-94.

What's in the name? Categorical perception for unfamiliar faces can occur through labeling.

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  • 1University of Essex, Colchester, England.


The conditions under which categorical perception (CP) occurs for unfamiliar faces are unclear. Although CP is generally found only for familiar faces, it has been reported for unfamiliar faces after brief training (Levin & Beale, 2000) or even without any learning of the original faces (Campanella, Hanoteau, Seron, Joassin, & Bruyer, 2003). Three experiments investigated whether CP can be observed for an unfamiliar morphed face continuum without preexposure to the endpoints of the continuum (Experiment 1); with brief exposure to the endpoints (Experiment 2); or with exposure to named endpoints (Experiment 3). CP was always observed for matched pairs of famous faces. However, CP for unfamiliar faces was induced only when participants observed names paired with the endpoint faces before the start of the experiment. The results suggest that CP effects for unfamiliar faces can be observed extremely rapidly when clear category labels are presented.

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