Developmental Prosopagnosia and Super-Recognition: No Special Role for Surface Reflectance Processing

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Face recognition by normal subjects depends in roughly equal proportions on shape and surface reflectance cues, while object recognition depends predominantly on shape cues. It is possible that developmental prosopagnosics are deficient not in their ability to recognize faces per se, but rather in their ability to use reflectance cues. Similarly, super-recognizers' exceptional ability with face recognition may be a result of superior surface reflectance perception and memory. We tested this possibility by administering tests of face perception and face recognition in which only shape or reflectance cues are available to developmental prosopagnosics, super-recognizers, and control subjects. Face recognition ability and the relative use of shape and pigmentation were unrelated in all the tests. Subjects who were better at using shape or reflectance cues were also better at using the other type of cue. These results do not support the proposal that variation in surface reflectance perception ability is the underlying cause of variation in face recognition ability. Instead, these findings support the idea that face recognition ability is related to neural circuits using representations that integrate shape and pigmentation information.



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