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    The activation of visual memory for facial identity is task-dependent: evidence from human electrophysiology

    Zimmermann, F.G.S. and Eimer, Martin (2014) The activation of visual memory for facial identity is task-dependent: evidence from human electrophysiology. Cortex 54 , pp. 124-134. ISSN 0010-9452.

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    The question whether the recognition of individual faces is mandatory or task-dependent is still controversial. We employed the N250r component of the event-related potential as a marker of the activation of representations of facial identity in visual memory, in order to find out whether identity-related information from faces is encoded and maintained even when facial identity is task-irrelevant. Pairs of faces appeared in rapid succession, and the N250r was measured in response to repetitions of the same individual face, as compared to presentations of two different faces. In Experiment 1, an N250r was present in an identity matching task where identity information was relevant, but not when participants had to detect infrequent targets (inverted faces), and facial identity was task-irrelevant. This was the case not only for unfamiliar faces, but also for famous faces, suggesting that even famous face recognition is not as automatic as is often assumed. In Experiment 2, an N250r was triggered by repetitions of non-famous faces in a task where participants had to match the view of each face pair, and facial identity had to be ignored. This shows that when facial features have to be maintained in visual memory for a subsequent comparison, identity-related information is retained as well, even when it is irrelevant. Our results suggest that individual face recognition is neither fully mandatory nor completely task-dependent. Facial identity is encoded and maintained in tasks that involve visual memory for individual faces, regardless of the to-be-remembered feature. In tasks without this memory component, irrelevant visual identity information can be completely ignored.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Face recognition, Face processing, Visual face memory, Event-related brain potentials, N250r component
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2014 09:42
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:10


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