Methodological Aspects of Studying the Perception of Familiar and Unfamiliar Faces



Face perception, one of most important social abilities, can be defined as the ability to perceive the face as a gestalt, along with all its parts and the relations between them. This face specific strategy has been called “configural processing”. One of actual trends in face cognition research — using of unfamiliar faces without nonspecific features — leads to controversy, whether this kind of stimulus material demonstrate ecological validity. In present, we propose a verification option using the experimental paradigm “part-whole recogni- tion” (successful detection of face details when presented in the context of a whole face). This classic effect was demonstrated using unfamiliar faces, with nonspecific details, and after the learning phase. After some modifications of this paradigm — using of unfamiliar faces without nonspecific features and without a series of familiarization — the effect disappears. The question is, whether the familiarization phase, or nonspecific features predict configural processing. We have shown that the main parameter is the absence of nonspecific features. The results may be helpful for planning future research.

General Information

Keywords: face perception, сonfigural face perception, part-whole recognition paradigm, familiar faces, unfamiliar faces, non-specific facial details

Journal rubric: Face Science

Article type: scientific article


Acknowledgements. Authors thank their German colleagues, Professor Werner Sommer (Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin) and Professor Andrea Hildebrandt (University of Oldenburg) for providing stimulus material. We also thank Platonova Tatjana for her help in preparation of figures for this paper and Doctor Alexander Vinogradov (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv) for valuable advice in data analysis.

For citation: Petrakova A.V., Mikadze Y.V., Raabe V.V. Methodological Aspects of Studying the Perception of Familiar and Unfamiliar Faces. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 4–23. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140201.


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Information About the Authors

Anastasiya V. Petrakova, PhD in Psychology, Postdoc in Center of Psychometrics and Measurements in Education, In- stitute of Education, National Research University High School of Economic, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Yuri V. Mikadze, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Chair of Neuro- and Pathopsychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leading Research Associate, Federal State Budgetary Institution «Federal center of brain and neurotechnologies»; Professor, Chair of Clinical Psychology, Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Vladislav V. Raabe, Ph.D Student of the Psychology Department, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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