The Prototype Effect in the Recognition of Familiar Faces: Sixteen Heads are Better than One
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Naturally occurring inconsistencies across photographs, such as varying expressions, poses and lighting, have meant that both human and automatic face recognition systems tend to perform less than perfectly. Past research has shown that simply merging together individual composites of an identity, to form a prototype image, can yield better recognition and better likeness to that person than any of the single contributing photograph. It has also been shown that caricaturing images, the process by which distinctive features of a face are exaggerated against an average norm, can also produce more efficient recognition, particularly in studies requiring participants to match an individual’s name and face. British university students took part in a celebrity identity name-verification task in which performance accuracy and correct-response reaction times were explored. Four stimulus conditions were used: a veridical photograph, a photograph caricature, a veridical prototype and a prototype caricature. The aim of the study was to identify a prototype effect and/or a caricature advantage over veridical and/or non-caricatured images. Results revealed that prototype-based images were identified more accurately and faster than photograph-based images. However, no caricature advantages were found for accuracy or reaction time data. Limitations to the study are considered, as are motivations for further experimentation, such as altering priming mechanisms and employing caricatures of increased and varying degrees in forthcoming studies.