Idiosyncratic body motion influences person recognition

Karin S. Pilz, Ian M. Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Person recognition is an important human ability. The main source of information we use to recognize people is the face. However, there is a variety of other information that contributes to person recognition, and the face is almost exclusively perceived in the presence of a moving body. Here, we used recent motion capture and computer animation techniques to quantitatively explore the impact of body motion on person recognition. Participants were familiarized with two animated avatars each performing the same basic sequence of karate actions with slight idiosyncratic differences in the body movements. The body of both avatars was the same, but they differed in their facial identity and body movements. In a subsequent recognition task, participants saw avatars whose facial identity consisted of morphs between the learned individuals. Across trials, each avatar was seen animated with sequences taken from both of the learned movement patterns. Participants were asked to judge the identity of the avatars. The avatars that contained the two original heads were predominantly identified by their facial identity regardless of body motion. More importantly however, participants identified the ambiguous avatar primarily based on its body motion. This clearly shows that body motion can affect the perception of identity. Our results also highlight the importance of taking into account the face in the context of a body rather than solely concentrating on facial information for person recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-549
Number of pages11
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number4-6
Early online date20 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Martin Giese for providing the motion capture data.


  • person recognition
  • face recognition
  • body motion
  • animation technique


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