Where are kin recognition signals in the human face?

Maria F. Dal Martello, Laurence T. Maloney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report two experiments that aimed to determine where in the face the cues that signal kinship fall. In both experiments, participants were shown 30 pairs of photographs of children's faces. Half of the pairs portrayed siblings and half did not. The 220 participants were asked to judge whether each pair of photographs portrayed siblings. We measured the effect on kin recognition performance of masks that covered the upper half or the lower half of the face (Experiment 1) and the eye region or the mouth region (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, we found that the signal detection estimate of performance d' decreased only 5.3% (ns) when the lower face was masked but by more than 65% when the upper face was masked. We tested whether the combination of kinship information from the two halves of the face can be treated as optimal combination of independent cues and found that it could be. In Experiment 2, we found that masking the eye region led to only a 20% reduction (ns) in performance whereas masking the mouth region led to a nonsignificant increase in performance. We also found that the eye region contains only slightly more information about kinship than the upper half of the face outside of the eye region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 28 2006


  • Cue combination
  • Face perception
  • Kin recognition
  • Signal detection theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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