Do I know you? Processing orientation and face recognition.

C Neil MacRae, H. L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Citations (Scopus)


Recognition performance is impaired when people are required to provide a verbal description of a complex stimulus (i.e., verbal-overshadowing effect), such as the face of the perpetrator in a simulated robbery. A shift in the processing operations that support successful face recognition is believed to underlie this effect. Specifically, when participants shift from a global to a local processing orientation, face recognition is impaired. Extending research on this general topic, the present experiment revealed that verbalization is not a necessary precondition for the emergence of impaired recognition performance. Rather face recognition can be disrupted by a task (i.e., letter identification) that triggers the activation of a local processing orientation. Conversely. the activation of a global processing orientation can enhance the accuracy of face recognition. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings for recent treatments of verbal overshadowing and memory function are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-196
Number of pages2
JournalPsychological Science
Publication statusPublished - 2002




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