The effects of inversion and familiarity on face versus body cues to person recognition

Rachel A. Robbins*, Max Coltheart

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    51 Citations (Scopus)


    Extensive research has focused on face recognition, and much is known about this topic. However, much of this work seems to be based on an assumption that faces are the most important aspect of person recognition. Here we test this assumption in two experiments. We show that when viewers are forced to choose, they do use the face more than the body, both for familiar (trained) person recognition and for unfamiliar person matching. However, we also show that headless bodies are recognized and matched with very high accuracy. We further show that processing style may be similar for faces and bodies, with inversion effects found in all cases (bodies with heads, faces alone and bodies alone), and evidence that mismatching bodies and heads causes interference. We suggest that recent findings of no inversion effect when stimuli are headless bodies may have been obtained because the stimuli led viewers to focus on nonbody aspects (e.g., clothes) or because pose and identity tasks led to somewhat different processing. Our results are consistent with holistic processing for bodies as well as faces.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1098-1104
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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