Putting faces to names


Department of Psychology, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK


An experiment is reported which investigated participants' ability to remember a person's face when they were presented with the person's name. During the learning phase, participants were shown 18 unfamiliar faces together with a name and occupation. At test, participants were presented with a name and were asked to indicate the face and occupation that had been presented with that name at learning. Results showed that participants' ability to remember the face was contingent upon their ability to remember the occupation that had been presented with the name. When participants were presented with a face and were asked to remember the name, performance was also contingent upon correctly remembering the associated occupation, consistent with the findings of McWeeny, Young, Hay & Ellis (1987). No such contingencies were apparent when participants were given an occupation and were asked to remember the associated name and face; participants frequently remembered the name but not the face, or the face without the name. These results are consistent with the serial access model of person identification proposed by Bruce & Young (1986), and with more recent developments proposed by Valentine, Brédart, Lawson & Ward (1991) and Craigie & Hanley (1993) in which there are no direct links between the representation of a person's name in memory and visual information about their facial appearance. The mnemonic strategies that were used by the participants during the learning phase of the experiment were also examined. These strategies help explain those few occasions on which participants appear to be able to link names to faces without identity-specific semantic information.