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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 1996 May;2(3):240-8.

Representations in learning new faces: evidence from prosopagnosia.

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Department of Psychology, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Erratum in

  • J Int Neuropsychol Soc 1996 Sep;2(5):475.


We report the performance of a prosopagnosic patient on face learning tasks under different encoding instructions (i.e., levels of processing manipulations). R.J. performs at chance when given no encoding instructions or when given "shallow" encoding instruction to focus on facial features. By contrast, he performs relatively well with "deep" encoding instructions to rate faces in terms of personality traits or when provided with semantic and name information during the study phase. We propose that the improvement associated with deep encoding instructions may be related to the establishment of distinct visually derived and identity-specific semantic codes. The benefit associated with deep encoding in R.J., however, was found to be restricted to the specific view of the face presented at study and did not generalize to other views of the same face. These observations suggest that deep encoding instructions may enhance memory for concrete or pictorial representations of faces in patients with prosopagnosia, but that these patients cannot compensate for the inability to construct abstract structural codes that normally allow faces to be recognized from different orientations. We postulate further that R.J.'s poor performance on face learning tasks may be attributable to excessive reliance on a feature-based left hemisphere face processing system that operates primarily on view-specific representations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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