The role of exploratory action in face encoding

Authors: Liu, C.H., Ward, J. and Markall, H.

Start date: 20 August 2006

Journal: Perception

Volume: 35

Pages: 212

Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)

ISSN: 1468-4233

Research on face recognition has mainly relied on methods where observers are relatively passive viewers of face stimuli. We investigated whether active exploration of 3-D face stimuli could facilitate recognition performance. A yoked design was employed in a series of experiments where the task either required old/new recognition memory decisions or matching two sequentially displayed face stimuli. Observers in the active condition explored 3-D views of faces via a joystick during training, whereas observers in the passive condition simply viewed the replay of the same sequence of face stimuli generated by the active observers. We found that the active condition produced better recognition and matching performance than the passive condition. Results of an experiment where 3-D faces were substituted by 3-D chair stimuli suggest that active exploration may play a more prominent role in face recognition than within-category object recognition. The study provides the first evidence that active exploration of face stimuli can lead to better recognition memory and matching accuracy. It suggests that face encoding may involve a tacit sampling strategy assisted by bodily actions.

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