What's in a name? Access to information from people's names.

Valentine T., Bredart S., Lawson, R. & Ward, G.

The processing of people's names is contrasted with face recognition and word recognition. The effects of the familiarity of initial and surnames and frequency of surnames (the number of people with the same surname) were investigated in several tasks. It was found that the effects of name familiarity and surname frequency were analogous to the effects of word frequency in tasks which did not require access to memory for individuals (a nationality decision and naming latency). In tasks which do require access to memory for individuals (familiarity decision and a semantic classification), the effect of surname frequency was analogous to the effect of distinctiveness in face recognition. The results are discussed in terms of a functional model of name processing in which name recognition units mediate between the output of word recognition units and access to identity-specific semantics.

European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 3, 147-176.