The role of attention and familiarity in face identification

Margaret C Jackson, Jane E Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


How is attention allocated during face identification? Previous work using famous and unfamiliar faces suggests that either no attention or a special attentional mechanism is required. We used a conventional attentional blink (AB) procedure to measure face identification with temporarily reduced attention. The participants viewed a rapid series of face images with one embedded nonface abstract pattern (T1). They judged the texture of T1 and then detected a prespecified face (T2) presented at varying lags after T1. T2 was either famous or unfamiliar, as were distractor faces. Regardless of distractor type, detection of an unfamiliar T2 face was significantly impaired at short versus long T1-T2 lags, indicating an attentional requirement for face identification. Detection of a famous T2 face was unaffected by lag, suggesting that familiarity protects against atemporal attentional bottleneck These findings do not support propositions that face identification is "special" in its need for attentional control
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-547
Number of pages15
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


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