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Given the vital role face recognition plays in human social interaction, variations in this ability hold inherent interest and potential consequence. Yet the science of such differences has long lagged behind that of differences in other cognitive domains. In particular, although scattered case reports of catastrophic face-recognition deficits due to brain damage date back more than a century, for many decades, virtually no attention was paid to naturally occurring individual differences in face recognition. This past decade, in contrast, has seen a remarkable acceleration of research into these naturally occurring differences, spurred by the creation and validation of high-quality measures, open sharing of these measures, new options for remote testing, and a concerted move toward larger and more multivariate investigations. In this article, I recount six fundamental insights gained during the past decade about individual differences in face recognition—concerning their broad range, cognitive specificity, strong heritability, resilience to change, life-span trajectory, and practical relevance. Insights like these support a richer understanding of individual social experience and could enable more informed individual and institutional decision making.


Post-print version of:

Jeremy B. Wilmer, "Individual differences in face recognition: A decade of discovery." Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 June 2017, Vol. 26(3) 225-230.

Final published version can be found here: