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The face recognition task we perform most often in everyday experience is the identification of people with whom we are familiar. However, because of logistical challenges, most studies focus on unfamiliar-face recognition, wherein subjects are asked to match or remember images of unfamiliar people's faces. Here we explore the importance of two facial attributes - shape and surface reflectance - in the context of a familiar-face recognition task. In our experiment, subjects were asked to recognise color images of the faces of their friends. The images were manipulated such that only reflectance or only shape information was useful for recognizing any particular face. Subjects were actually better at recognizing their friends' faces from reflectance information than from shape information. This provides evidence that reflectance information is important for face recognition in ecologically relevant contexts.

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R. Russell & P. Sinha, 2007. The definitive, peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Perception, 36, 9, 1368-1374, 2007, doi:10.1068/p5779.