The Lasting Impression of Chairman Mao: Hyperfidelity of Familiar-Face Memory Academic Article uri icon

  •  
  • Overview
  •  
  • Research
  •  
  • Identity
  •  
  • Additional Document Info
  •  
  • View All
  •  

abstract

  • We examined the accuracy of a highly-familiar-face representation in memory. In experiment 1, a famous portrait of Chairman Mao was digitally altered in terms of the distance between his two eyes, two pixels at a time. Mainland Chinese adults were shown the original or altered photos, one at a time, and asked to determine whether each was that of Chairman Mao or altered. Eastern Asian and Caucasian participants, who were unfamiliar with Mao's photo, were shown simultaneously the original face paired with the altered ones and asked to determine whether the photos were identical. The Mainland Chinese participants' memory threshold approximated the perceptual discrimination threshold of the Eastern Asian and Caucasian participants. Experiments 2 and 3 ruled out that the result of experiment 1 was due to artifacts of photographic alteration. The findings of the present study suggest that our memory of a very familiar face is highly accurate, at least in terms of the interocular configuration. The accuracy is perhaps only limited by the perceptual resolution capacity of our visual system.

publication date

  • May 2003