NCBI ROFL: Think you’re good at recognizing celebrities? Think again!

By ncbi rofl | October 10, 2012 7:00 pm

Famous faces as icons. The illusion of being an expert in the recognition of famous faces.

“It is a common belief that we are experts in the processing of famous faces. Although our ability to quickly and accurately recognise pictures of famous faces is quite impressive, we might not really process famous faces as faces per se, but as ‘icons’ or famous still pictures of famous faces. This assumption was tested in two parallel experiments employing a recognition task on famous, but personally unfamiliar, and on personally familiar faces. Both tests included (a) original, ‘iconic’ pictures, (b) slightly modified versions of familiar pictures, and (c) rather unfamiliar pictures of familiar persons. Participants (n = 70 + 70) indeed recognised original pictures of famous and personally familiar people very accurately, while performing poorly in recognising slightly modified, as well as unfamiliar versions of famous, but not personally familiar persons. These results indicate that the successful processing of famous faces may depend on icons imbued in society but not on the face as such.”

Bonus figure from the full text:

Photo: flickr/tj scenes

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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