Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 525–537 | Cite as

Is naming faces different from naming objects? Semantic interference in a face- and object-naming task

  • Alejandra Marful
  • Daniela Paolieri
  • M. Teresa Bajo


A current debate regarding face and object naming concerns whether they are equally vulnerable to semantic interference. Although some studies have shown similar patterns of interference, others have revealed different effects for faces and objects. In Experiment 1, we compared face naming to object naming when exemplars were presented in a semantically homogeneous context (grouped by their category) or in a semantically heterogeneous context (mixed) across four cycles. The data revealed significant slowing for both face and object naming in the homogeneous context. This semantic interference was explained as being due to lexical competition from the conceptual activation of category members. When focusing on the first cycle, a facilitation effect for objects but not for faces appeared. This result permits us to explain the previously observed discrepancies between face and object naming. Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1, with the exception that half of the stimuli were presented as face/object names for reading. Semantic interference was present for both face and object naming, suggesting that faces and objects behave similarly during naming. Interestingly, during reading, semantic interference was observed for face names but not for object names. This pattern is consistent with previous assumptions proposing the activation of a person identity during face name reading.


Semantic memory Face processing Interference/inhibition Memory retrieval Language production 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandra Marful
    • 1
  • Daniela Paolieri
    • 2
  • M. Teresa Bajo
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of JaénJaénSpain
  2. 2.Research Center for Mind, Brain and BehaviorUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain

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