The contribution of the body and motion to whole person recognition

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Abstract

While the importance of faces in person recognition has been the subject of many studies, there are relatively few studies examining recognition of the whole person in motion even though this most closely resembles daily experience. Most studies examining the whole body in motion use point light displays, which have many advantages but are impoverished and unnatural compared to real life. To determine which factors are used when recognizing the whole person in motion we conducted two experiments using naturalistic videos. In Experiment 1 we used a matching task in which the first stimulus in each pair could either be a video or multiple still images from a video of the full body. The second stimulus, on which person recognition was performed, could be an image of either the full body or face alone. We found that the body contributed to person recognition beyond the face, but only after exposure to motion. Since person recognition was performed on still images, the contribution of motion to person recognition was mediated by form-from-motion processes. To assess whether dynamic identity signatures may also contribute to person recognition, in Experiment 2 we presented people in motion and examined person recognition from videos compared to still images. Results show that dynamic identity signatures did not contribute to person recognition beyond form-from-motion processes. We conclude that the face, body and form-from-motion processes all appear to play a role in unfamiliar person recognition, suggesting the importance of considering the whole body and motion when examining person perception.

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