Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 171, Issue 4, pp 436–447 | Cite as

A search advantage for faces learned in motion

  • Karin S. PilzEmail author
  • Ian M. Thornton
  • Heinrich H. Bülthoff
Research Article


Recently there has been growing interest in the role that motion might play in the perception and representation of facial identity. Most studies have considered old/new recognition as a task. However, especially for non-rigid motion, these studies have often produced contradictory results. Here, we used a delayed visual search paradigm to explore how learning is affected by non-rigid facial motion. In the current studies we trained observers on two frontal view faces, one moving non-rigidly, the other a static picture. After a delay, observers were asked to identify the targets in static search arrays containing 2, 4 or 6 faces. On a given trial target and distractor faces could be shown in one of five viewpoints, frontal, 22° or 45° to the left or right. We found that familiarizing observers with dynamic faces led to a constant reaction time advantage across all setsizes and viewpoints compared to static familiarization. This suggests that non-rigid motion affects identity decisions even across extended periods of time and changes in viewpoint. Furthermore, it seems as if such effects may be difficult to observe using more traditional old/new recognition tasks.


Visual Search Task Target Type Static Picture Target Face Search Slope 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Martin Breidt and Mario Kleiner for helping to produce the stimuli used in these experiments. Thanks also to all of the actors who allowed us to videocapture their facial motions. We are also grateful to Quoc Vuong, Vicki Bruce and one anonymous reviewer for their valuable and thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material




  1. Amaya K, Bruderlin A, Calvert T (1996) Emotion from motion. GI ‘96 online papers (
  2. Bassili JN (1978) Facial motion in the perception of faces and of emotional expression. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 4:373–379CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonner L, Burton AM, Bruce V (2003) Getting to know you: how we learn new faces. Visual Cognit 10:527–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brainard D (1997) The psychophysics toolbox. Spat Vis 10:433–436PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruce V (1982) Changing faces: visual and non-visual coding processes in face recognition. Br J Psychol 73:105–116PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruce V (1999) Complexities of face perception and categorisation. Behav Brain Sci 22:369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bruce V, Young A (1986) Understanding face recognition. Br J Psychol 77:305–327PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruce V, Henderson Z, Greenwood K, Hancock PJB, Burton AM, Miller P (1999) Verification of face identities from images captured on video. J Exp Psychol A 5:339–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell R, Brooks B, de Haan E, Roberts T (1996) Dissociating face processing skills: decision about lip-read speech, expression, and identity. Q J Exp Psychol A 49:295–314CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cavanagh P, Labianca A,Thornton IM (2001) Attention-based visual routines: sprites. Cognition 80:47–60CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Christie F, Bruce V (1998) The role of dynamic information in the recognition of unfamiliar faces. Mem Cognit 26:780–790PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cunningham DW, Breidt M, Kleiner M, Wallraven C, Bülthoff HH (2003) How believable are real faces: towards a perceptual basis for conversational animation. Computer Animation and Social Agents 2003, 23–39Google Scholar
  13. Duncan J, Humphreys GW (1989) Visual search and stimulus similarity. Psychol Rev 96:433–458CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Eastwood JD, Smilek D, Merikle PM (2001) Differential attentional guidance by unattended faces expressing positive and negative emotion. Percept Psychophys 63:1004–1013PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Eastwood JD, Smilek D, Merikle PM (2003) Negative facial expression captures attention and disrupts performance. Percept Psychophys 65:352–358PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellis HD, Shepherd JW, Davies GM (1979) Identification of familiar and unfamiliar faces from internal and external features: some implications for theories of face recognition. Perception 8:431–439PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Enns JT, Rensink RA (1990)Influence of scene-based properties on visual search. Science 9:721–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Freyd JJ (1987) Dynamic mental representations. Psychol Rev 94:427–438CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Freyd J (1993) Five hunches about perceptual processes and dynamic representations. In: Meyer D, Kornblum S (eds) Attention and performance XIV: synergies in experimental psychology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive neuroscience. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 99–119Google Scholar
  20. Freyd JJ, Finke RA (1984) Facilitation of length discrimination using real and imaged context frames. Am J Psychol 97:323–341CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Freyd JJ, Johnson JQ (1987) Probing the time course of representational momentum. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 13:259–268CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Haxby JV, Hoffman EA, Gobbini MI (2000) The distributed human neural system for face perception. Trends Cogn Sci 4:223–233CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hill H, Johnston A (2001) Categorizing sex and identity from the biological motion of faces. Curr Biol 11:880–887CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hill H, Schyns PG, Akamatsu S (1997) Information and viewpoint dependence in face recognition. Cognition 62:201–222CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Kamachi M, Bruce V, Mukaida S, Gyoba J, Yoshikawa S, Akamatsu S (2001) Dynamic properties influence the perception of facial expressions. Perception 30:875–887CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Kleiner M, Wallraven C, Bülthoff HH (2003)”The MPI VideoLab.” Technical report 104. Max-Planck-Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  27. Knappmeyer B, Thornton IM, Bülthoff HH (2003) Facial motion biases the perception of facial form. Vision Res 43:1921–1936CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Knight B, Johnson A (1997) The role of movement in face recognition. Vis Cogn 4:265–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kourtzi Z, Nakayama K (2001) Dissociable signatures of processing for moving and static objects. Vis Cogn 9:248–264Google Scholar
  30. Lander K, Bruce V (2000) Recognizing famous faces: Exploring the benefits of facial motion. Ecol Psychol 12:259–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lander K, Bruce V (2003) The role of motion in learning new faces. Vis Cogn 10:897–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lander K, Chuang L (2005) Why are moving faces easier to recognize? Vis Cog 12:429–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lander K, Christie F, Bruce V (1999) The role of movement in the recognition of famous faces. Mem Cognit 27:974–985PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Liu CH, Chaudhuri A (2002) Reassessing the 3/4 view effect in face recognition. Cognition 83:31–48CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Newell FN, Wallraven C, Huber S (2004) The role of characteristic motion in object categorization. J Vis 4:118–129CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Nothdurft HC (1993) Faces and facial expressions do not pop out. Perception 22:1287–1298PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Toole AJ, Roark D, Abdi H (2002) Recognizing moving faces: a psychological and neural synthesis. Trends Cogn Sci 6:261–266CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Rosenblum LD, Yakel DA, Baseer N, Panchal A, Nodarse BC, Niehus RP (2002) Visual speech information for face recognition. Percept Psychophys 64:220–229PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Sekular AB, Palmer SE (1992) Perception of partly occluded objects: a microgenetic analysis. J Exp Psy gen 121:95–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stone JV (1999) Object recognition: view-specificity and motion-specificity. Vision Res 39:4032–4044CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Thornton IM, Kourtzi Z (2002) A matching advantage for dynamic faces. Perception 31:113–132CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Tong F, Nakayama K (1999) Robust representations for faces: evidence from visual search. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 25:1016–1035CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Treisman AM, Gelade G (1980) A feature-integration theory of attention. Cognit Psychol 12:97–136CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Troje NF, Bülthoff HH (1996) Face recognition under varying poses: the role of texture and shape. Vision Res 12:1761–1771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vuong QC, Tarr MJ (2004) Rotation direction affects object recognition. Vision Res 44:1717–1730CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Wallis G (2002) The role of object motion in forging long-term representations of objects. Vis Cogn 9:233–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wallis G, Bülthoff HH (2001) Effects of temporal association on recognition memory. PNAS 98:4800–4804CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Watson TL, Hill HC, Johnston A, Troje N (2005) Motion as a cue for viewpoint invariance. Vis cogn (in press)Google Scholar
  49. Wolfe JM (1994) Visual search in continuous, naturalistic stimuli. Vision Res 34:1187–1195CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Wolfe JM (1998) Visual Search. In: Pashler H (eds) Attention. Psychology Press/Erlbaum (UK) Taylor & Francis, England, pp 13–73Google Scholar
  51. Young AW, Hay DC, Ellis AW (1985) The faces that launched a thousand slips: everyday difficulties and errors in recognizing people. Br J Psychol 76:495–523PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karin S. Pilz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ian M. Thornton
    • 1
    • 3
  • Heinrich H. Bülthoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Biological CyberneticsTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Graduate School of Neural and Behavioural SciencesTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wales, SwanseaWalesUK

Personalised recommendations