Familiar faces as islands of expertise



Hancock PJB (2021) Familiar faces as islands of expertise. Cognition, 214, Art. No.: 104765.

Most people recognise and match pictures of familiar faces effortlessly, while struggling to match unfamiliar face images. This has led to the suggestion that true human expertise for faces applies only to familiar faces. This paper develops that idea to propose that we have isolated 'islands of expertise' surrounding each familiar face that allow us to perform better with faces that resemble those we already know. This idea is tested in three experiments. The first shows that familiarity with a person facilitates identification of their relatives. The second shows that people are better able to remember faces that resemble someone they already know. The third shows that while prompting participants to think about resemblance at study produces a large positive effect on subsequent recognition, there is still a significant effect if there is no such prompt. Face-spaceR (Lewis, 2004) is used to illustrate a possible computational explanation of the processes involved.

Familiar faces; Expertise; Face-space-R; Kin recognition; Face Recognition

Cognition: Volume 214

FundersEPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Publication date30/09/2021
Publication date online23/05/2021
Date accepted by journal04/05/2021

People (1)


Professor Peter Hancock

Professor Peter Hancock

Professor, Psychology

Projects (1)

FACERVM - Face Matching

Research centres/groups