What makes a face photo a ‘good likeness’?

Ritchie, Kay, Kramer, Robin and Burton, A. Mike (2018) What makes a face photo a ‘good likeness’? Cognition, 170 . pp. 1-8. ISSN 0010-0277

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.09.001

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What makes a face photo a ‘good likeness’?

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Abstract

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.

Keywords:facial likeness, familiarity, iconic images, face averages, prototype, mental representation
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:28749
Deposited On:04 Oct 2017 12:46

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