How faces (and cars) may become special

Mackenzie A. Sunday, Michael D. Dodd, Andrew J. Tomarken, Isabel Gauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Recent reports have shown that individuals from small hometowns show relatively poor face recognition ability as measured by the Cambridge Face Memory Test or CFMT (Balas & Saville, 2015, 2017), suggesting that the number of faces present in an individual's visual environment relates to that individual's face recognition ability. We replicate this finding in a sample from a different region (Nebraska) and with more variable age distribution. We extend the study by using another test of face recognition ability that does not require learning over trials, and with non-face object recognition tests that share the learning format with the CFMT. We find no hometown effect in these other tests, although more power would be required to show the CFMT effect is significantly larger. We use the same dataset to explore whether experience with more faces and cars in larger hometowns leads to specialization of these abilities. We find strong and substantial support for the hypothesis that the recognition abilities for faces and for cars are more independent from general object recognition in people from larger hometowns. This suggests that experience may be critical to the specialization of these abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-212
Number of pages11
JournalVision research
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Experience
  • Face recognition
  • Object recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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