Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Recognition without Face Identification

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Recognition without Face Identification

Article excerpt

Recognition without identification is the finding that participants can recognize recognition test items as having been previously studied when the test items themselves are presented in such a way that their identification is hindered. The present study demonstrates this phenomenon in face recognition. Participants studied names of celebrities before receiving a recognition test containing pictures of celebrity faces. Half of the pictures were of celebrities whose names were studied; half were of celebrities whose names were not studied. Participants attempted to identify each face on the test and also rated the likelihood that each person's name was studied. Among the faces that went unidentified, ratings discriminated between celebrities whose names were studied and celebrities whose names were not studied. This recognition without face identification effect is dependent upon the sense of being in a tip-of-the-tongue state for a particular name. Theoretical implications of the results are discussed.

The Scottish language has a verb to describe the experience of recognizing a face as being familiar without being able to call to mind who the person is. The verb is tartling. To tartle is to hesitate in recognizing something or to fail to retrieve the name of a familiar person, thing, or place (Goldstein & Gigerenzer, 1999, p. 37; Reingold, 2000, p. 39). Interest in this phenomenon of recognizing a person on the basis of a sense of familiarity with the person (hereafter termed tartling for brevity) spans across many research areas within cognitive psychology, but is perhaps most commonly referenced in the recognition memory literature (e.g., Mandler, 1980,1991; see Yonelinas, 2002, for a review).

Studying Tartling From a List-Learning Perspective

In the recognition memory literature, researchers attempt to tap into this phenomenon through the use of a list-learning paradigm. Participants study a list of items and are later tested with a recognition test in which the task is to discriminate between studied and nonstudied items. Among those who take a dual-process perspective (see Yonelinas, 2002, for a review), it is thought that people can recognize a test item as having been studied in two ways: They can recognize an item as studied because they are able to recall its earlier occurrence on the list (recollection-based recognition), or they can recognize an item as studied on the basis of a sense of familiarity with the test item itself (familiarity-based recognition).

Many dual-process recognition researchers have argued that this latter basis of recognition in list-learning paradigms is the same as that which gives rise to the common real-life phenomenon of tartling in face recognition. For example, to illustrate the difference between recollection and familiarity, Curran and Cleary (2003, p. 191) stated, "We have all had the experience of knowing a face is familiar despite an inability to recollect details such as the person's name." Similarly, Rajaram (1993, p. 90) wrote, "There are times when we meet someone on the street whom we met at a party a few days ago. Although we know that we met this person at the party, we may not remember actually meeting the person, or his/her name." Other instances in which the tartling experience is cited as an example of familiarity-based recognition can be found in Mandler (1991) and Yonelinas (2002). Although the anecdotal examples of familiarity in this literature are very often of tartling in face recognition, these studies rarely use faces as stimuli for studying familiarity (though see Yovel & Palier, 2004, for an example of a study that recently examined familiarity with faces); more often, the stimuli are words or line drawings.

Also, although references to the phenomenon of tartling in face recognition are common in the recognition memory literature, there are notable differences between the methodology used to study familiarity in typical recognition memory paradigms and the real-life experience of recognizing a face as familiar without recollecting such details as the person's name. …

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