Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Recalling Episodic and Semantic Information about Famous Faces and Voices

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Recalling Episodic and Semantic Information about Famous Faces and Voices

Article excerpt

In this study, we used the distinction between remember and know (R/K) recognition responses to investigate the retrieval of episodic information during familiar face and voice recognition. The results showed that familiar faces presented in standard format were recognized with R responses on approximately 50% of the trials. The corresponding figure for voices was less than 20%. Even when overall levels of recognition were matched between faces and voices by blurring the faces, significantly more R responses were observed for faces than for voices. Voices were significantly more likely to be recognized with K responses than were blurred faces. These findings indicate that episodic information was recalled more often from familiar faces than from familiar voices. The results also showed that episodic information about a familiar person was never recalled unless some semantic information, such as the person's occupation, was also retrieved.

In everyday life and in laboratory studies, the recognition of a face that we know is generally accompanied by the retrieval from semantic memory of further information about the person, such as his or her occupation or where he or she is typically encountered (Hanley & Cowell, 1988; Hay, Young, & ElHs, 1991; Young, Hay, & Ellis, 1985). Much less is known about the availability in memory of episodes containing specific information about an occasion on which a familiar person was encountered. In this study, therefore, we investigated the retrieval of specific personal memories when famous faces are recognized and compared recall of episodic information from familiar faces with recall from familiar voices.

This is an issue that has been almost totally neglected in current theorizing about person recognition, in which it is generally assumed that person identification is carried out exclusively by the semantic memory system (Bruce & Young, 1986; Burton, Bruce, & Hancock, 1999; Valentine, Brennen, & Bredart, 1996). However, recent research by Westmacott and Moscovitch (2003) and Westmacott, Black, Freedman, and Moscovitch (2003) showed that certain famous names were much more likely than others to be associated with retrieval of personal memories. Furthermore, these personally salient names were read and recognized more quickly than less salient names even when the two sets were equally familiar to the participants. These findings suggest that episodic memory might be more important in person recognition than has hitherto been suspected and indicates that it is important to investigate the extent to which personal memories might accompany recognition of familiar faces and voices.

In the experiment reported below, we, like Westmacott and Moscovitch (2003), investigated this issue by employing the remember I know (R/K) procedure originally used by Tulving (1985) and Gardiner (1988). In this procedure, participants are given a recognition test and asked to classify each item that they recognize into one of two categories, remember (R) or know (K). Typical instructions state that an R response means that recognition is accompanied by a specific recollection of the item's occurrence, such as an association or an image that the item evokes. A K response should be reported when the participant believes that he or she encountered the item previously but episodic information cannot be recalled. The R/K procedure is a particularly useful tool in recognition memory because it allows the researcher to infer the presence of different contributions of remembering and knowing following experimental manipulations that have no effect on the overall number of items correctly recognized.

Since its inception, the R/K paradigm has predominantly been used with verbal stimuli, such as words (e.g., Gardiner, Ramponi, & Richardson-Klavehn, 1998) that are presented for study in an encoding phase and for recognition in a test phase. A small number of studies have applied the R/K procedure to the recognition of novel faces (Brandt, Macrae, Schloerscheidt, & Milne, 2003; Mantylä, 1997), but it has never been applied to the recognition of familiar faces. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.