Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 111–116

What is Overt and what is Covert in Congenital Prosopagnosia?


    • Department of NeurophysiologyMax Planck Institute for Brain Research
    • Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in Cooperation with Max Planck Society
    • Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie University
    • Slop, Scuola Lombarda di Psicoterapia Cognitiva Neuropsicologica
  • Romina Palermo
    • ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, and School of PsychologyUniversity of Western Australia
  • Laura Schmalzl
    • Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie University
    • Department of NeuroscienceKarolinska Institute

DOI: 10.1007/s11065-012-9223-0

Cite this article as:
Rivolta, D., Palermo, R. & Schmalzl, L. Neuropsychol Rev (2013) 23: 111. doi:10.1007/s11065-012-9223-0


The term covert recognition refers to recognition without awareness. In the context of face recognition, it refers to the fact that some individuals show behavioural, electrophysiological or autonomic indices of recognition in the absence of overt, conscious recognition. Originally described in cases of people that have lost their ability to overtly recognize faces (acquired prosopagnosia, AP), covert face recognition has more recently also been described in cases of congenital prosopagnosia (CP), who never develop typical overt face recognition skills. The presence of covert processing in a developmental disorder such as CP is a particularly intriguing phenomenon, and its investigation is relevant for a variety of reasons. From a theoretical point of view, it is useful to help shed light on the cognitive and neural underpinnings of face recognition deficits. From a clinical point of view, it has the potential to aid the design of rehabilitation protocols aimed at improving face recognition skills in this population. In the current review we selectively summarize the recent literature on covert face recognition in CP, highlight its main findings, and provide a theoretical interpretation for them.


Face perceptionProsopagnosiaCongenital prosopagnosiaCovert face recognition

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012