Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


James M. Lampinen

Committee Member

William H. Levine

Second Committee Member

Darya L. Zabelina


Face Perception, Face Recognition, Familiarity, Memory


The term “ambient images” has begun to show up in much of the current literature on facial recognition. Ambient images refer to naturally occurring views of a face that captures the idiosyncratic ways in which a target face may vary (Ritchie & Burton, 2017). Much of the literature on ambient images have concluded that exposing people to ambient images of a target face can lead to improved facial recognition for that target face. Some studies have even suggested that familiarity is the result of increased exposure to ambient images of a target face (Burton, Kramer, Ritchie, & Jenkins, 2016). The current study extended the literature on ambient images. Using the face sorting paradigm from Jenkins, White, Van Montfort, and Burton (2011), the current study served three purposes. First, this study captured whether there was an incremental benefit in showing ambient images. Particularly, we observed whether performance improved as participants were shown a low, medium, or high number of ambient images. Next, this study attempted to provide a strong enough manipulation that participant would be able to perform the face sorting task perfectly, after being exposed to a high number (45 total) of ambient images. Lastly, this study introduced time data as a measure of face familiarity. The results found support for one aim of this study and partial support for another aim of this study. Time data were found to be an effective quantitative measure of familiarity. Also, there was some evidence of an incremental benefit of ambient images, but that benefit disappeared after viewing around 15 unique exemplar presentations of a novel identity’s face. Lastly, exposing participants to 45 ambient images alone did not cause them to reach perfect performance. The paper concludes with a discussion on the need to extend past ambient images to understand how to best mimic natural familiarity in a lab setting.