The prototype effect in face recognition: extension and limits.

Journal Article

The prototype effect in face recognition refers to a tendency to recognize the face corresponding to the central value of a series of seen faces, even when this central value or prototype has not been seen. Five experiments investigated the extension and limits of this phenomenon. In all the experiments, participants saw a series of faces, each one in two or more different versions or exemplars, and then performed a recognition test, including seen and unseen exemplars and the unseen prototype face. In Experiment 1, a strong prototype effect for variations in feature location was demonstrated in oldness ratings and in a standard old/new recognition test. Experiments 2A and 2B compared the prototype effect for variations in feature location and variations in head angle and showed that, for the latter, the prototype effect was weaker and more dependent on similarity than for the former. These results suggest that recognition across feature variations is based on an averaging mechanism, whereas recognition across viewpoint variations is based on an approximation mechanism. Experiments 3A and 3B examined the limits of the prototype effect using a face morphing technique that allows a systematic manipulation of face similarity. The results indicated that, as the similarity between face exemplars decreases to the level of similarity between the faces of different individuals, the prototype effect starts to disappear. At the same time, the prototype effect may originate false memories of faces that were never seen.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cabeza, R; Bruce, V; Kato, T; Oda, M

Published Date

  • January 1999

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 139 - 151

PubMed ID

  • 10087863

Pubmed Central ID

  • 10087863

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-5946

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0090-502X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3758/bf03201220


  • eng