Models of face recognition and delusional misidentification: A critical review

Nora Breen*, Diana Caine, Max Coltheart

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    151 Citations (Scopus)


    The 'two-route model of face recognition' proposed by Bauer (1984) and adopted by Ellis and Young (1990), has become a widely accepted model in studies of face processing disorders, including both prosopagnosia and the delusional misidentification syndromes. We review the origin and application of the two-route model of face recognition in examining both the neuroanatomical pathways and the cognitive pathways to face recognition. With respect to the neuroanatomy, we conclude that face recognition is subserved by a single pathway, the ventral visual pathway, as there is no evidence to suggest that the dorsal visual pathway is capable of visual recognition or of providing an affective response to familiar stimuli. We demonstrate how operation of the ventral visual pathway and its connections to the amygdala can parsimoniously account for the findings in the literature on prosopagnosia and delusional misidentification syndromes. In addition, we propose a cognitive model of face processing stemming from the work of Bruce and Young (1986). Our model involves two pathways subsequent to the system responsible for face recognition: one pathway to a system containing semantic and biographical information about the seen face, and a second pathway to a system responsible for the generation of an affective response to faces that are familiar. We demonstrate how this cognitive model can explain the dissociations between overt and covert recognition observed in prosopagnosia and the Capgras delusion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-71
    Number of pages17
    JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000


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