Face processing predicts reading ability: evidence from prosopagnosia

EDWIN BURNS, Cindy M Bukach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
272 Downloads (Pure)


There is considerable interest in whether face and word processing are reliant upon shared or dissociable processes. Developmental prosopagnosia is associated with lifelong face processing deficits, with these cases providing strong support for a dissociation between face and word recognition in three recent papers (Burns et al., 2017; Rubino et al., 2016; Starrfelt et al., 2018). However, the sample sizes in each of these studies may have been too small to detect significant effects. We therefore combined their data to increase power and reassessed their results. While only a non-significant trend for reading impairments was found in prosopagnosia using a one-sample t-test, poorer face memory performance was correlated with slower reading speeds across prosopagnosia and control participants. Surprisingly, poorer face perception skills in prosopagnosia were associated with smaller word length effects. This suggests that while mild reading impairments exist in developmental prosopagnosia, there may be a trade-off between their residual face perception abilities and reading skill. A reanalysis of Hills and colleagues’ (2015) acquired prosopagnosia data also revealed a positive relationship between words and faces: severe impairments in face recognition were related to poorer word processing. In summary, the developmental and acquired prosopagnosia literature supports models of visual perception that posit face and word processing are reliant upon broadly shared processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
Early online date22 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021


  • Developmental prosopagnosia
  • Dissociation
  • Many-to-many model
  • Modular
  • Neuronal recycling
  • Word recognition


Dive into the research topics of 'Face processing predicts reading ability: evidence from prosopagnosia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this