Are faces special? A case of pure prosopagnosia

M. Jane Riddoch, Robert A. Johnston, R. Martyn Bracewell, Luc Boutsen, Glyn W. Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to recognize individual faces is of crucial social importance for humans and evolutionarily necessary for survival. Consequently, faces may be “special” stimuli, for which we have developed unique modular perceptual and recognition processes. Some of the strongest evidence for face processing being modular comes from cases of prosopagnosia, where patients are unable to recognize faces whilst retaining the ability to recognize other objects. Here we present the case of an acquired prosopagnosic whose poor recognition was linked to a perceptual impairment in face processing. Despite this, she had intact object recognition, even at a subordinate level. She also showed a normal ability to learn and to generalize learning of nonfacial exemplars differing in the nature and arrangement of their parts, along with impaired learning and generalization of facial exemplars. The case provides evidence for modular perceptual processes for faces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • prosopagnosia
  • modular processing
  • category specificity
  • configural processing


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