Multiple images captured from a single encounter do not promote face learning

Matthews, Claire M.; Ritchie, Kay L.; Laurence, Sarah and Mondloch, Catherine J. (2024). Multiple images captured from a single encounter do not promote face learning. Perception (early access).



Viewing multiple images of a newly encountered face improves recognition of that identity in new instances. Studies examining face learning have presented high-variability (HV) images that incorporate changes that occur from moment-to-moment (e.g., head orientation and expression) and over time (e.g., lighting, hairstyle, and health). We examined whether low-variability (LV) images (i.e., images that incorporate only moment-to-moment changes) also promote generalisation of learning such that novel instances are recognised. Participants viewed a single image, six LV images, or six HV images of a target identity before being asked to recognise novel images of that identity in a face matching task (training stimuli remained visible) or a memory task (training stimuli were removed). In Experiment 1 (n = 71), participants indicated which image(s) in 8-image arrays belonged to the target identity. In Experiment 2 (n = 73), participants indicated whether sequentially presented images belonged to the target identity. Relative to the single-image condition, sensitivity to identity improved and response biases were less conservative in the HV condition; we found no evidence of generalisation of learning in the LV condition regardless of testing protocol. Our findings suggest that day-to-day variability in appearance plays an essential role in acquiring expertise with a novel face.

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