Identification and Classification of Facial Familiarity in Directed Lying: An ERP Study

Laboratory of Neuropsychology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 02/2012; 7(2):e31250. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031250
Source: PubMed


Recognizing familiar faces is essential to social functioning, but little is known about how people identify human faces and classify them in terms of familiarity. Face identification involves discriminating familiar faces from unfamiliar faces, whereas face classification involves making an intentional decision to classify faces as "familiar" or "unfamiliar." This study used a directed-lying task to explore the differentiation between identification and classification processes involved in the recognition of familiar faces. To explore this issue, the participants in this study were shown familiar and unfamiliar faces. They responded to these faces (i.e., as familiar or unfamiliar) in accordance with the instructions they were given (i.e., to lie or to tell the truth) while their EEG activity was recorded. Familiar faces (regardless of lying vs. truth) elicited significantly less negative-going N400f in the middle and right parietal and temporal regions than unfamiliar faces. Regardless of their actual familiarity, the faces that the participants classified as "familiar" elicited more negative-going N400f in the central and right temporal regions than those classified as "unfamiliar." The P600 was related primarily with the facial identification process. Familiar faces (regardless of lying vs. truth) elicited more positive-going P600f in the middle parietal and middle occipital regions. The results suggest that N400f and P600f play different roles in the processes involved in facial recognition. The N400f appears to be associated with both the identification (judgment of familiarity) and classification of faces, while it is likely that the P600f is only associated with the identification process (recollection of facial information). Future studies should use different experimental paradigms to validate the generalizability of the results of this study.

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