Recognising and learning faces in motion

Karen Lander, Natalie Butcher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



This chapter reviews the role of motion when recognising already familiar faces and when learning new faces. This issue is interesting since, historically, face perception research has utilised static images of faces, with little consideration for the potential role of dynamic information created by seeing a face in motion. Much recent research has suggested that dynamic information contributes important additional information both when recognising familiar faces and when learning new ones. In this chapter we also introduce some of our own recent research which aims to investigate the importance of seeing own-race and other-race faces moving at encoding and testing. The practical and theoretical implications of our results are discussed.

Face recognition in humans is a highly developed visual perceptual skill. Face processing is performed by a distributed cognitive system likely to have evolved in the very distant past in evolutionary history (Pascalis and Kelly, 2009). Faces are naturally intricate structures composed of multiple complex features (e.g. eyes), which are themselves constructed from multiple lower-level features (e.g. contrast, frequency, orientation), located and orientated according to a unique configuration (Peterson et al., 2009). Despite this, in everyday life, the task of recognising and identifying individuals from their face is undertaken with relative ease and with little apparent effort (Christie and Bruce, 1998). We recognise faces from all directions under many different viewing conditions (Christie and Bruce, 1998). Variations in lighting and viewpoint, among other non-optimal viewing conditions, are encountered in everyday life yet recognition remains highly accurate (Hill et al., 1997; Braje et al., 1998). We are also adept in identifying particular characteristics from unfamiliar faces, such as their age, sex, race and emotional state with incredible accuracy (McGraw et al., 1989; Montepare and Zebrowitz, 1998). Accordingly, psychologists have long been interested in when face perception is optimal, and in particular have been keen to understand the cognitive processes that occur during face perception.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCraniofacial Identification
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781139049566
ISBN (Print)0521768627, 9780521768627
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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