Person knowledge shapes face identity perception

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Description: Recognition of others’ identity through facial features is essential in life. Using both correlational and experimental approaches, we examined how person knowledge biases the perception of others’ facial identity. When a participant believed any two individuals were more similar in personality, their faces were perceived to be correspondingly more similar (assessed via mousetracking, study 1). Further, participants’ visual representations of faces belonging to individuals believed to have a more similar personality were found to have a greater physical resemblance (assessed via reverse-correlation, study 2 and 3). Finally, when participants learned about novel individuals who had a more similar personality, their faces were visually represented more similarly (study 4). Together, the findings show that the perception of facial identity is driven not only by facial features but also the person knowledge we have learned about others, biasing it toward alternate identities despite the fact that those identities lack any physical resemblance.

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