Examining the Role of Compassion and Mindfulness in Face Recognition

  • Kyriaki Giannou

Student thesis: Phd


Individual differences have been related to face recognition ability. For example, empathy has been related to face recognition; however, empathy poses limitations for the development of effective interventions. Empathy is proposed as part of compassion, which relates to self-compassion and mindfulness that may be more effectively applied in face recognition than empathy alone. In Chapter 2, four experiments explored the relationship between empathy, compassion, mindfulness and unfamiliar face identification. Mindfulness and common humanity related to better recognition but not matching. Face identification did not relate to empathy or compassion for others. Chapter 3 explored the factor structure of empathy, compassion and mindfulness measures to further investigate if suggested latent variables predict face recognition performance. Attentional mindfulness notions merged to predict face recognition performance. All self-compassion facets and the mindfulness facet of ‘non-react’ collectively predicted false alarm rates. Finally, positive empathy and compassion notions did not predict recognition performance. Chapter 4 investigated the neural basis of the relationship between mindfulness and face recognition by examining the face recognition ability and corresponding ERP activity of experienced meditators and non-meditators. Experienced meditators’ face recognition ability was not as good as that of non-meditators. Experienced meditators, compared to non-meditators, displayed smaller N1 and larger P300 amplitudes in the study phase, but no group differences were observed in the P100, N170 and FN400 components. Chapter 5 explored the effects of a brief mindfulness intervention on face recognition. Participants, who either trained in meditation or listened to an audiobook were tested, post-intervention, with face recognition memory tasks while their ERP component activity was recorded. Findings suggested better face recognition in the meditation group, who also displayed larger N1 amplitudes and shorter P100 latencies. No further significant ERP amplitude differences between the meditation and control groups were observed. Chapter 5 embedded mindfulness instructions in the face-composite construction process to facilitate identification. Participants memorised an unfamiliar face and, 24 hours later, constructed the face using the EvoFIT facial composite system, either with or without mindfulness instructions. More composites constructed with mindfulness, than the normal EvoFIT process, were correctly identified. Overall, the present findings provide sufficient justification for further research into the role of mindfulness in face recognition. Attentional mindfulness notions may inform new directions in face recognition research, aiming to practically assist the face recognition process.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKaren Lander (Supervisor) & Jason Taylor (Supervisor)


  • ERP
  • SEM
  • Factor Analysis
  • EEG
  • Mindfulness
  • Face Recognition
  • Compassion

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