Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 166, Issue 3–4, pp 583–591 | Cite as

The role of long-term and short-term familiarity in visual and haptic face recognition

Research Article


Recent studies have suggested that the familiarity of a face leads to more robust recognition, at least within the visual domain. The aim of our study was to investigate whether face familiarity resulted in a representation of faces that was easily shared across the sensory modalities. In Experiment 1, we tested whether haptic recognition of a highly familiar face (one’s own face) was as efficient as visual recognition. Our observers were unable to recognise their own face models from tactile memory alone but were able to recognise their faces visually. However, haptic recognition improved when participants were primed by their own live face. In Experiment 2, we found that short-term familiarisation with a set of previously unfamiliar face stimuli improved crossmodal recognition relative to the recognition of unfamiliar faces. Our findings suggest that familiarisation provides a strong representation of faces but that the nature of the information encoded during learning is critical for efficient crossmodal recognition.


Face recognition Haptics Vision Face familiarity 



This research was funded by a Higher Education Authority, PRTLI grant awarded to the Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, of which FNN is a member. Our thanks go to Tanja Khosrawi for her assistance in creating the haptic face stimuli.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Trinity CollegeInstitute of NeuroscienceDublin 2Ireland

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