Familiarity effects on categorization levels of faces and objects

David Anaki, Shlomo Bentin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


It is well established that faces, in contrast to objects, are categorized as fast or faster at the individual level (e.g., Bill Clinton) than at the basic-level (e.g., human face). This subordinate-shift from basic-level categorization has been considered an outcome of visual expertise with processing faces. However, in the present study we found that, similar to familiar faces, categorization of individually-known familiar towers is also faster at the individual level than at the basic-level in naïve participants. In addition, category-verification of familiar stimuli, at basic and superordinate levels, was slower and less accurate compared to unfamiliar stimuli. Thus, the existence of detailed semantic information, regardless of expertise, can induce a shift in the default level of object categorization from basic to individual level. Moreover, the individually-specific knowledge is not only more easily-retrieved from memory but it might also interfere with accessing more general category information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-149
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a fellowship from the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel to David Anaki, and by NIMH Grant R01 MH 64458 to S. Bentin. We thank Jim Tanaka, Assaf Harel and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments. We are grateful to Anat Levi-Zacks and Shir Ben-Zvi for their assistance in conducting the experiment.


  • Categorization
  • Faces
  • Familiarity
  • Objects
  • Subordinate-shift


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