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Perception. 1979;8(4):431-9.

Identification of familiar and unfamiliar faces from internal and external features: some implications for theories of face recognition.


Three experiments are reported in which recognition of faces from whole faces or internal or external features was compared. In the first experiment, where the faces were of famous people, an advantage was found for identification from internal features. In the second experiment involving unfamiliar faces, however, no difference was found in recognition rates when subjects were given the internal or the external features. In a third experiment famous faces were presented and mixed with other famous faces for a recognition test. As in experiment 1, better recognition occurred from internals as compared with external features. It is argued that the internal representation for familiar faces may be qualitatively different from that for face seen just once. In particular some advantage in feature saliency may accrue to the internal or 'expressive' features of familiar faces. The implications of these results are considered in relation to general theories of face perception and recognition.

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