The faces that launched a thousand slips: Everyday difficulties and errors in recognizing people


Psychology Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YF, UK.


Twenty-two people kept records of difficulties and errors they experienced in recognizing people, producing a main set of 922 records of difficulties and errors collected over a seven-week period, and a subsidiary set of 86 records of experiences in which an encountered person was noticed to resemble a known person in some way(s). These records are classified into different types, and used to develop a model of person recognition in which representational systems create structural descriptions of the encountered person that are submitted to checks for resemblances to known people (by recognition units); any such resemblances can then be used to access person identity information (held in person identity nodes), and then additional information (including the appropriate name) held in separate stores. Outputs from the recognition units and from the person identity nodes go to the rest of the cognitive system, which can be important in taking decisions as to the ‘real’ identity of an encountered person, and which also has at its disposal various ways of gaining further information that may assist such decisions.