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Title: The source of individual differences in face recognition
Author: Zubko, Olga
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2011
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For most of us, recognising a face is effortless and instantaneous, yet there are striking differences between individuals' ability to do so. Although several models of face recognition have been proposed (see Ellis & Young, 1990; Bruce & Young, 1986), no systematic investigation of how individual differences might arise at each stage of face processing exists. To this end, the current thesis sought to identify the sources of individual variability in face processing. Seven stages of face processing consisting of the ability to: (i) disregard incidental properties, (ii) code 1 st order relations, (iii) code 2nd order relations as well as (iv) retain information in short-term memory, (v) retrieve semantic information (vi) filter out visual distracters and (vii) engage in a task were examined. Using an old/new paradigm, participants were first categorized into 'good' or 'poor' face recognizers. Then their performance under each of the experimental conditions, designed to probe the seven key stages of face recognition, was assessed. Individual differences emerged at four of the seven stages investigated: First, 'good' recognizers were more sensitive to targets than poor performers when 40 faces (high load) had to be remembered, suggesting that they were able to maintain more faces in memory. Next, good performers were more sensitive to target faces during both upright and inverted conditions suggesting that they shifted more flexibly between local and global processing strategies. Differences in face recognition were also predicted by the ability to filter out visual distracters. That is, good performers became less sensitive to target faces when the number of distracter faces increased from 1 to 5, whilst poor performers did not. This ability also distinguished between face recognition of congenital prosopagnosics and individuals without reported face processing difficulties. The fourth key finding from this thesis is that individual differences in face processing can be partly accounted by volitional factors associated with motivation and task engagement. In sum, this thesis identifies factors which can explain why 'some individuals never forget a face' whilst others do, and establishes conditions under which these differences are eliminated. The following chapters discuss these findings with reference to current theories of face recognition. Wider implications including the development of new strategies with which to enhance face recognition performance are also discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available