Binding sex, age, and race in unfamiliar faces: The formation of “face files”

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A series of five experiments investigated the binding of social categories (e.g., sex, race, and age) and non-facial attributes (e.g., spatial location and response) in unfamiliar faces. Evidence for the creation and retrieval of temporary, short-term memory structures, across perception and action has been adduced. The binary bindings documented here (e.g., sex and race, race and spatial location) were indicated by partial repetition costs, in which repeating a pair of social categories or altering them altogether led to faster responses than repeating or alternating only one of them. These episodic structures, dubbed herein “face files”, consisted of both visuo–visuo and visuo–motor integrations. Their presence suggests that sets of binary social categories in unfamiliar faces are extracted simultaneously and retrieved together automatically. The implications of these results for theories of person construal and social cognition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Feature binding
  • Person perception
  • Social categories


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