A new attempt to discover the covert recognition of faces



The article describes an experiment which used a new methodological approach to the study of covert recognition of faces by means of registration electro-dermal activity under short-term exposure of familiar and unfamiliar faces and the backward facelike masking stimulus. In contrast to previous studies the control of stimulus awareness allows us to evaluate not just the correct recognitions, but false alarms too. We used as the familiar faces not faces of the well-known persons, but faces of persons from the inner circle of subjects, including the subject’s own face. We confirmed the hypothesis that the characteristics of the electro-dermal reactions in response to familiar and unfamiliar faces will not be different in subjects with a high level of false alarms. However, for the group of subjects with practically zero false alarm rate and zero discriminability of familiar and unfamiliar faces an analysis of electro-dermal reactions have been mixed. On the one hand, as analysis on a group level showed, nor electrocutaneous reactions frequency, nor their amplitudes were not significantly different for the familiar and unfamiliar faces. On the other hand, it is clearly that these individual median and mean values of the amplitudes of subject's reactions are in average more than 2 times stronger when viewed familiar faces than viewed unfamiliar ones. These results leave a good chance to prove the effect of covert identification of faces in further experimentation with other groups of subjects

General Information

Keywords: subliminal perception, covert recognition of faces, electro-dermal reactions, backward masking, false alarms

Journal rubric: Psychophysiology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/exppsy.2015080404

For citation: Meshcheryakov B.G., Nazarov A.I., Chesnokova L.G., Yushchenkova D.V. A new attempt to discover the covert recognition of faces. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2015. Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 45–60. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2015080404. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Bauer R.M. Autonomic recognition of names and faces in prosopagnosia: A neuropsychological application of the guilty knowledge test. Neuropsychologia, 1984, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 457-469. doi: 10.1016/0028- 3932(84)90040-X
  2. Ellis H.D., Young A.W., Koenken G. Covert face recognition without prosopagnosia. Behavioural Neurology, 1993, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 27-32.
  3. Kostandov E.A. Psikhofiziologiya soznaniya i bessoznatel’nogo [Psychophysiology of consciousness and unconsciousness], St. Petersburg, Piter Publ., 2004.167 p.
  4. McDonald P.R., Slater A.M., Longmore C.A. Covert detection of attractiveness among the neurologically intact: Evidence from skin-conductance responses. Perception, 2008, vol. 37, no. 7, pp. 1054-1060. doi: 10.1068/p5774
  5. Merikle P.M., Smilek D., Eastwood J.D. Perception without awareness: Perspectives from cognitive psychology. Cognition, 2001, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 115-134. doi: 10.1016/S0010-0277(00)00126-8
  6. Meshcheryakov B.G. Skrytoe opoznanie i neosoznavaemyi emotsional’nyi effekt lits [Elektronnyi resurs] [Hidden identification and unconscious emotional effect persons], Psikhologicheskii zhumal Mezhdunarodnogo universitetaprirody, obshchestoa i cheloveka “Dubna” [PsychologicalJournal of International University of Nature, Society and Man “Dubna”], 2013, no. 2, pp. 79-105. Available at: http://psyanima.ru/ issues/2013n2a4.pdf (Accessed: 28.08.2015) (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  7. Meshcheryakov B.G., Nazarov A.I., Yushchenkova D.V. Svoistva elektro-kozhnoi aktivnosti pri vospriyatii lits s raznoi ekspressiei [Properties of electro-dermal activity in the perception of people with different expression]. In Meshcheryakov B.G. (ed.), Psikhologiya tret’ego tysyacheletiya: II Mezhdunarod- naya nauchno-prakticheskaya konferentsii: sbomik materialov [Psychology of the Third Millennium: II International scientific-practical conference: a collection of materials]. Dubna, «Dubna» University Publ., 2015, pp. 254-258.
  8. Nazarov A.I. О chem eshche mogut rasskazat’ elektro-kozhnye potentsialy? [Elektronnyi resurs] [What else can tell electro-skin potentials?]. Psikhologicheskii zhumal Mezhdunarodnogo universiteta prirody, obshchestoa i cheloveka “Dubna” [Psychological Journal of International University of Nature, Society and Man “Dubna”] 2014, no. 4, pp. 109-122. Available at: http://psyanima.ru/issues/2014n4a6.pdf (Accessed: (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  9. Peirce S.S., Jastrow J. On small differences in sensation. Memoirs of the National Academy of Science, 1884, no. 3, pp. 73-83.
  10. Revonsuo A. Consciousness: The Science of Subjectivity. Taylor & Francis, 2009. (Russ, ed.: Revonsuo A. Psikhologiya soznaniya: per. s angl. St. Petersburg: Piter Publ., 2013).
  11. Sidis B. The psychology of suggestion: A research into the subconscious nature of man and society. New York, D. Appleton, 1898.
  12. Snodgrass J.G., Corwin J. Pragmatics of measuring recognition memory: Applications to dementia and amnesia .Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1988, vol. 117, no. 1, pp. 34-50. doi: 10.1037/0096­3445.117.1.34
  13. Stone A., Valentine Т., Davis R. Face recognition and emotional valence: processing without awareness by neurologically intact participants does not simulate covert recognition in prosopagnosia. Cognitive, Affective, Behavioral Neuroscience, 2001, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 183-191.
  14. Suslova N. Veranderungen der Hautgefuhle unter dem Einflusse elektrischer Reizung. Zeitschrift fur rational Meditin, 1863, vol. 17, no. 1-2, pp. 155-161.
  15. Suslova N.P. Izmeneniya kozhnykh oshchushchenii pod vliyaniem elektricheskogo razdrazheniya [Changes in skin sensation under the influence of electrical stimulation]. Meditsinskii vestnik [Medical Gazette], 1862, no. 21 (In Russ.).
  16. Tranel D., Damasio A.R. Knowledge without awareness: an autonomic index of facial recognition by prosopagnosics. Science, 1985, vol. 228, no. 4706, pp. 1453-1454. doi: 10.1126/science.4012303
  17. Tranel D., Damasio A.R. Non-conscious face recognition in patients with face agnosia. Behavioural Brain Research, 1988, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 235-249. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(88)90166-0

Information About the Authors

Boris G. Meshcheryakov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Department of Psychology, FSGN, State University “Dubna”, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the International Scientific Journal "Cultural-Historical Psychology", Dubna, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6252-2822, e-mail: borlogic1@gmail.com

Anatoly I. Nazarov, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, FSGN, State University “Dubna”, Dubna, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5844-0688, e-mail: koval39@inbox.ru

L. G. Chesnokova, Master 2nd year of study of the Psychology Department, State University "Dubna", Dubna, Russia, e-mail: fluff.93@mail.ru

Daria V. Yushchenkova, PhD in Psychology, Associate professor of the Psychology Department, State University "Dubna", Dubna, Russia, e-mail: dashulya-psy@mail.ru



Total: 2302
Previous month: 7
Current month: 7


Total: 549
Previous month: 1
Current month: 0