Failures to retrieve familiar personal names are among the frequently reported everyday memory errors. Failures to correctly retrieve semantic information (e.g. occupation, place of living, etc.) for familiar people are relatively less frequent. In particular, situations in which a familiar face can be successfully named even though no semantic information can be accessed appear to be extremely rare or nonexistent. In the model of face recognition by Bruce and Young (1986), it was proposed that the access to semantic information and names of familiar people occurs in a sequential manner, such that the access of semantic information is mandatory before a name can be retrieved. In the context of this topic, we collected experimental data as well as electrophysiological evidence which have been challenging this view to some extent, and which has been interpreted to suggest that the access to semantic information and names occurs in a parallel fashion, involving different brain systems. Another controversy has been about whether semantic information for people is organized in a categorical (i.e., driven by semantic category membership) or purely associative (i.e., driven by co-occurrence) manner. Recent data from the lab have provided evidence that both category membership and co-occurrence of people contribute independently to semantic person memory.

Selected Relevant Publications

Abdel Rahman, R., Sommer, W., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2002). Brain potential evidence for the time course of access to biographical facts and names of familiar persons: Brain potential evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 366-373.

Huddy, V., Schweinberger, S.R., Jentzsch, I., & Burton, A.M. (2003). Matching Faces for Semantic Information and Names: An Event-related Brain Potentials Study. Cognitive Brain Research, 17, 314-326.

Schweinberger, S.R., Burton, A.M., & Kelly, S.W. (2001). Priming the access to names of famous faces. British Journal of Psychology, 92, 303-317.

Wiese, H. (2011). The structure of semantic person memory: Evidence from semantic priming in person recognition. British Journal of Psychology, 102(4), 899-914.

Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2011). The Structure of Semantic Person Knowledge: ERP Correlates of Non-Strategic Categorical and Associative Priming. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(2), 447-459.

Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2007). Accessing semantic information of famous people: ERP evidence for both associative and categorical priming of names. Joint meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society and the Psychonomic Society, Edinburgh, 4-7 July, 2007

Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2008). Event-related brain potentials indicate different processes to mediate categorical and associative priming in person recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 1246-1263.

Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2015). Getting connected: Both associative and semantic links structure semantic memory for newly learned persons. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68(11). 2131-2148. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1008526. (Link to PDF)

Wiese, H., Komes, J., Tüttenberg, S., Atzmüller, J., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2017). Age-related changes in face recognition: Neural correlates of repetition and semantic priming in young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(8), 1254-1273. (Link to PDF)