Familiar and Unfamiliar Face Recognition in a Crowd


The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether the visual search process for familiar faces differs from that for unfamiliar faces. We used a single-target visual search task and recorded eye movements of participants during the task. We employed three different types of face familiarity: personally familiar faces (friends and teachers), famous faces, and unfamiliar faces. Participants had to search through arrays of faces for a target face. In each trial, a target face and three distractor faces were horizontally aligned and presented at the same time. In the personally familiar or famous condition, the target was a personally familiar face or a famous face, respectively, and the distractor faces were unfamiliar. In the unfamiliar condition, the target was an unfamiliar face and the distractor faces were personally familiar. The reaction times to identify the target demonstrated that the visual search for unfamiliar faces is slower than that for personally familiar faces and famous faces, but there was no significant difference between reaction times to recognize the personally familiar and the famous face targets. Additionally, the eye movement results in the unfamiliar face condition showed that an exhaustive search of the entire array occurred more frequently than a self-terminating search, but this was not true for both the personally familiar faces and famous faces conditions. These results suggest that the visual search process for familiar faces (personally familiar and famous) in a crowd differs from that for unfamiliar faces.

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Ito, H. & Sakurai, A. (2014). Familiar and Unfamiliar Face Recognition in a Crowd. Psychology, 5, 1011-1018. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.59113.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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