False recognition of unfamiliar faces was investigated in patients with focal right hemisphere damage (RHD) in order to define the neuropsychological and anatomical correlates of the recognition impairment and examine its relationship to prosopagnosia. Findings are discussed within the framework of the Bruce and Young model of face processing. Although false recognition and prosopagnosia were both present in some RHD patients, the two types of face recognition impairments were dissociable in others. Processing deficits in subjects with both false recognition and prosopagnosia were associated with posterior right hemisphere lesion sites and included severe face perception impairment and partial damage to face recognition units (FRUs). Prosopagnosia without false recognition was seen following near complete destruction of FRUs, but this type of dissociation could also occur when FRUs become disconnected. The opposite dissociation, false recognition without prosopagnosia, was observed following right prefrontal damage. We propose that false recognition in frontal patients results from the breakdown of strategic decision making and monitoring functions critical for determining whether a face is indeed that of a familiar person or whether there is merely a resemblance to a known individual. False recognition following prefrontal damage may also be related to confabulation, in which case familiarity or even specific identity are erroneously attributed to facial stimuli without the activation of an underlying memory representation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience