The Memorability of People: Intrinsic Memorability Across Transformations of a Person’s Face

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When encountering new people for a brief instant, some seem to last in our memories while others are quickly forgotten. Memorability—whether a stimulus is likely to be later remembered—is highly consistent across different group of observers; people tend to remember and forget the same face images. However, is memorability intrinsic to just the picture of a face, or to a person’s identity, generalizable across views and emotions? Thousands of participants completed an online experiment testing face identity recognition over five different emotional and viewpoint transformations (neutral, happy, angry, 3/4 view, and profile view). Memorability was found to be highly consistent within each image, as well as across transformations—if a face was remembered in one image, it was also likely to be remembered in another. Most other face attributes, including what participants thought would be memorable, did not show consistency within an identity. Overall, these results support the existence of memorability as a uniquely intrinsic, core attribute to a person, stable across images.

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