Kramer, R. S. S., Manesi, Z., Towler, A., Reynolds, M. G., & Burton, A. M. (2018). Familiarity and within-person facial variability: The importance of the internal and external features. Perception, 47(1), 3-15.

As faces become familiar, we come to rely more on their internal features for recognition and matching tasks. Here, we assess whether this same pattern is also observed for a card sorting task. Participants sorted photos showing either the full face, only the internal features, or only the external features into multiple piles, one pile per identity. In Experiments 1 and 2, we showed the standard advantage for familiar faces—sorting was more accurate and showed very few errors in comparison with unfamiliar faces. However, for both familiar and unfamiliar faces, sorting was less accurate for external features and equivalent for internal and full faces. In Experiment 3, we asked whether external features can ever be used to make an accurate sort. Using familiar faces and instructions on the number of identities present, we nevertheless found worse performance for the external in comparison with the internal features, suggesting that less identity information was available in the former. Taken together, we show that full faces and internal features are similarly informative with regard to identity. In comparison, external features contain less identity information and produce worse card sorting performance. This research extends current thinking on the shift in focus, both in attention and importance, toward the internal features and away from the external features as familiarity with a face increases.

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Ritchie, K. L., Kramer, R. S. S., & Burton, A. M. (2018). What makes a face photo a ‘good likeness’?. Cognition, 170, 1-8.

Photographs of people are commonly said to be ‘good likenesses’ or ‘poor likenesses’, and this is a concept that we readily understand. Despite this, there has been no systematic investigation of what makes an image a good likeness, or of which cognitive processes are involved in making such a judgement. In three experiments, we investigate likeness judgements for different types of images: natural images of film stars (Experiment 1), images of film stars from specific films (Experiment 2), and iconic images and face averages (Experiment 3). In all three experiments, participants rated images for likeness and completed speeded name verification tasks. We consistently show that participants are faster to identify images which they have previously rated as a good likeness compared to a poor likeness. We also consistently show that the more familiar we are with someone, the higher likeness rating we give to all images of them. A key finding is that our perception of likeness is idiosyncratic (Experiments 1 and 2), and can be tied to our specific experience of each individual (Experiment 2). We argue that likeness judgements require a comparison between the stimulus and our own representation of the person, and that this representation differs according to our prior experience with that individual. This has theoretical implications for our understanding of how we represent familiar people, and practical implications for how we go about selecting images for identity purposes such as photo-ID.

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Roebuck, H., Guo, K., & Bourke, P. (2018). Hearing without listening: attending to a quiet audiobook. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(8), 1663-1671.

Careful systematic tests of hearing ability may miss the cognitive consequences of sub-optimal hearing when listening in the real world. In Experiment One, sub-optimal hearing is simulated by presenting an audiobook at a quiet but discriminable level over 50 minutes. Recall of facts, words and inferences are assessed and performance compared to another group at a comfortable listening volume. At the quiet intensity, participants are able to detect, discriminate and identify spoken words but do so at a cost to sequential accuracy and fact recall when attention must be sustained over time. To exclude other interpretations, the effects are studied in Experiment Two by comparing recall to the same sentences presented in isolation. Here, the differences disappear. The results demonstrate that the cognitive consequences of listening at low volume arise when sustained attention is demanded over time.

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Thornborrow, T., Jucker J.-L., Boothroyd, L. G., & Tovée, M. J. (2018). Investigating the link between television viewing and men’s preferences for female body size and shape in rural Nicaragua. Evolution & Human Behavior.

The different levels of media access in otherwise very similar villages in rural Nicaragua provided a natural laboratory to explore the effect of television (TV) access on men’s preferences for female body size and shape. In study 1 we compared the female body ideals of men from three discrete villages who experienced different levels of TV but otherwise inhabited a similar ecological and sociocultural environment. 3D modelling software enabled participants to create their ideal female body with more precision than simply choosing a figure from a limited range of 2D images. In study 2 we further explored local men’s perceptions of female physical attractiveness and attitudes towards television using focus group discussions. Results from study 1 showed that men in the high TV villages preferred significantly slimmer bodies compared to those in the low TV village. Regression analyses showed TV access to be a significant predictor of ideal body size and upper body shape, but not of ideal lower body shape. The central theme to emerge from study 2 was the importance of the relationship between lower body shape, movement, and sex in the men’s judgments of female attractiveness: the curvaceous body was perceived by the men to be a reliable cue to potential sexual promise, rather than valued simply for its visual aesthetic. Overall, findings suggest that TV access is linked to rural Nicaraguan men’s perceptions of ideal female body weight and breast size, but preferences for a curvaceous lower body shape may be driven primarily by judgments of female sexual promise.

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