The locus of semantic priming effects in person recognition

Allan McNeill, A. Mike Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Semantic priming in person recognition has been studied extensively. In a typical experiment, participants are asked to make a familiarity decision to target items that have been immediately preceded by related or unrelated primes. Facilitation is usually observed from related primes, and this priming is equivalent across stimulus domains (i.e., faces and names prime one another equally). Structural models of face recognition (e.g., IAC: Burton, Bruce, & Johnston, 1990) accommodate these effects by proposing a level of person identity nodes (PINs) at which recognition routes converge, and which allow access to a common pool of semantics. We present three experiments that examine semantic priming for different decisions. Priming for a semantic decision (e.g., British/American?) shows exactly the same pattern that is normally observed for a familiarity decision. The pattern is equivalent for name and face recognition. However, no semantic priming is observed when participants are asked to make a sex decision. These results constrain future models of face processing and are discussed with reference to current theories of semantic priming.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2002


  • person recognition
  • semantic priming effects


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