Can we recognize people based on their body-alone? The roles of body motion and whole person context

Noa Simhi, Galit Yovel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While most studies on person recognition examine the face alone, recent studies have shown evidence for the contribution of the body and gait to person recognition beyond the face. Nevertheless, little is known on whether person recognition can be performed based on the body alone. In this study, we examined two sources of information that may enhance body-based person recognition: body motion and whole person context. Body motion has been shown to contribute to person recognition especially when facial information is unclear. Additionally, generating whole person context, by attaching faceless heads to bodies, has been shown to activate face processing mechanisms and may therefore enhance body-based person recognition. To assess body-based person recognition, participants performed a sequential matching task in which they studied a video of a person walking followed by a headless image of the same or different identity. The role of body motion was examined by comparing recognition from dynamic vs. static headless bodies. The role of whole person context was examined by comparing bodies with and without faceless heads. Our findings show that person recognition from the body alone was better in dynamic vs. static displays indicating that body motion contributed to body-based person recognition. In addition, whole person context contributed to body-based person recognition when recognition was performed in static displays. Overall these findings show that recognizing people based on their body alone is challenging but can be performed under certain circumstances that enhance the processing of the body when seeing the whole dynamic person.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalVision Research
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Body-based person recognition
  • Contextual effects
  • Dynamic identity signatures
  • Whole person perception

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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