Meet The Simpsons: top-down effects in face learning

Lesley Bonner, A. Mike Burton, Rob Jenkins, Allan McNeill, Vicki Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We examined whether prior knowledge of a person affects the visual processes involved in learning a face. In two experiments, subjects were taught to associate human faces with characters they knew (from the TV show The Simpsons) or characters they did not (novel names). In each experiment, knowledge of the character predicted performance in a recognition memory test, relying only on old/new confidence ratings. In experiment 1, we established the technique and showed that there is a face-learning advantage for known people, even when face items are counterbalanced for familiarity across the experiment. In experiment 2 we replicated the effect in a setting which discouraged subjects from attending more to known than unknown people, and eliminated any visual association between face stimuli and a character from The Simpsons. We conclude that prior knowledge about a person can enhance learning of a new face.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2003


  • visual processes
  • memory
  • face learning

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    Bonner, L., Burton, A. M., Jenkins, R., McNeill, A., & Bruce, V. (2003). Meet The Simpsons: top-down effects in face learning. Perception.