Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 111–116 | Cite as

What is Overt and what is Covert in Congenital Prosopagnosia?

  • Davide RivoltaEmail author
  • Romina Palermo
  • Laura Schmalzl


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 perception Prosopagnosia Congenital prosopagnosia Covert face recognition 



DR is supported by the Neuronale Koordination Forschungsschwerpunkt Frankfurt (NeFF), RP is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence Grant CE110001021, and LS is supported by the European Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Davide Rivolta
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Romina Palermo
    • 5
  • Laura Schmalzl
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of NeurophysiologyMax Planck Institute for Brain ResearchFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in Cooperation with Max Planck SocietyFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Slop, Scuola Lombarda di Psicoterapia Cognitiva NeuropsicologicaPaviaItaly
  5. 5.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, and School of PsychologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  6. 6.Department of NeuroscienceKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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