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Mental representations of familiar faces


Mike Burton, School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2UB, UK (e-mail:


The Bruce and Young (1986) framework makes a number of important distinctions between the types of representation needed to recognize a familiar face. Here, we return to these, focussing particularly on face recognition units. We argue that such representations need to incorporate idiosyncratic within-person variability, asking questions such as ‘What counts as a picture of Harrison Ford?’. We describe a mechanism for achieving this, and discuss the relation between image variability and episodic face memories, in the context of behavioural and neurophysiological data.

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