The Influence of Processing of Instructions at Encoding and retrieval on Face Recognition Accuracy

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Published in: Psychology, Crime & Law. Vol. 4, No. 2 1998, p.89-106.


Whereas previous research has demonstrated that trait ratings of faces at encoding leads to enhanced recognition accuracy as compared to feature ratings, this set of experiments examines whether ratings given after encoding and just prior to recognition influence face recognition accuracy. In Experiment 1 subjects who made feature ratings just prior to recognition were significantly less accurate than subjects who made no ratings or trait ratings. In Experiment 2 ratings were manipulated at both encoding and retrieval. The retrieval effect was smaller and nonsignificant, but a combined probability analysis showed that it was significant when results from both experiments are considered jointly. As in previous research, subjects who rated facial features at encoding performed less accurately than subjects who rated traits. In a third experiment exposure duration at retrieval, a potentially confounding factor in Experiments 1 and 2, had a nonsignificant effect on recognition accuracy, suggesting that it probably does not explain the results from Experiments 1 and 2. These experiments demonstrate that face recognition accuracy can be influenced by processing instructions at retrieval, although additional research is needed to examine the qualifying conditions of this retrieval effect.