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False recognition of unfamiliar people: "Seeing film stars everywhere"

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 18:50 authored by Jamie WardJamie Ward, A Parkin, G Powell, E Squires, J Townshend, V Bradley
A patient (MR) is reported who is able to correctly recognise famous people as being familiar but has a strong tendency to falsely recognise unfamiliar people as being familiar. False recognition does not depend on the type of person involved (contemporary, historical, fictional) or the modality in which it is presented (face, spoken/written name). False recognition does not extend to vocabulary knowledge, to other proper name categories (e.g. places) or to news events. Several hypotheses are considered but discounted. False recognition does not reflect reliance on familiarity associated with parts of the stimuli as opposed to the whole. False recognition, instead, depends critically on the nature of the referent (i.e. whether it refers to a person or not) and not on the nature of the stimulus material. Thus, MR will not produce false recognition when asked to search for names that refer to song or book titles even when, in all other respects, the stimuli resemble the names of people (e.g. Eleanor Rigby, David Copperfield). It is suggested that this disorder stems from a top-down failure to regulate the person recognition system, such that inappropriate information is retrieved. The category specificity may reflect inappropriate use of meta-memory knowledge concerning the rate of potential new exemplars from the category of "people" relative to other categories


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  • Published


Cognitive Neuropsychology







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  • Psychology Publications

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