Face-evoked thoughts

Xingchen Zhou, Rob Jenkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The thoughts that come to mind when viewing a face depend partly on the face and partly on the viewer. This basic interaction raises the question of how much common ground there is in face-evoked thoughts, and how this compares to viewers' expectations. Previous analyses have focused on early perceptual stages of face processing. Here we take a more expansive approach that encompasses later associative stages. In Experiment 1 (free association), participants exhibited strong egocentric bias, greatly overestimating the extent to which other people's thoughts resembled their own. In Experiment 2, we show that viewers' familiarity with a face can be decoded from their face-evoked thoughts. In Experiment 3 (person association), participants reported who came to mind when viewing a face—a task that emphasises connections in a social network rather than nodes. Here again, viewers' estimates of common ground exceeded actual common ground by a large margin. We assume that a face elicits much the same thoughts in other people as it does in us, but that is a mistake. In this respect, we are more isolated than we think.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104955
Number of pages10
Early online date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to Rob Jenkins.
© 2021 Elsevier B.V. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Egocentric bias
  • Face perception
  • False consensus
  • Metacognition

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