Professor Elinor McKone


I completed my PhD in psychology at ANU in 1996 on the topic of implicit (nonconscious) memory. I moved immediately into a teaching-and-research faculty position at ANU. In 1998 I spent a year as a postdoc at Harvard in the Vision Sciences Laboratory with Prof Ken Nakayama. It was during this postdoc that my research interests switched to face recognition, my primary research focus since. Subsequent to my return to ANU, I have been awarded two successive QEII fellowships from the Australian Research Council.

My current publication list and citation statistics have public availability on Google scholar.

Research interests

Recognition of other people's faces, and their expressions, is crucial for social interaction, yet can pose an extremely challenging problem to the visual system because faces are so similar to each other. I study the perceptual, cognitive and neural mechanisms humans possess to solve this task: the types of computations performed by different stages of the face system, the extent to which these are evolutionarily old and specific to faces, and the extent to which they are developed from, or affected by, experience. Recent and current projects include:

  • Using our theoretical knowledge of how faces are processed to develop methods for improving recognition of faces in the 'bionic eye' and in people with age-related macular degeneration.
  • Finding out how the various perceptual mechanisms of face recognition develop across childhood.
  • Studying why memory for faces of a different race from ourselves is usually poor, and what can be done to improve it.
  • Using adaptation aftereffects to reveal how faces are coded neurally within 'face-space'.
  • Many studies of 'holistic processing', e.g., whether this is specific to faces, how it is affected by the race of the face, whether and how it develops across childhood.
  • Studying why some people are much better than others at recognising faces, including the relationship of individual ability to different perceptual mechanisms, and to psychosocial and demographic variables such as social anxiety, depression, callous-unemotional traits, and aging.


2011-2014 ARC Discovery Project


Investigators: Elinor McKone *, Romina Palermo * (ANU), Richard O'Kearney (ANU), Tirin Moore (Stanford)
Title:Perceptual and psychosocial factors associated with individual differences in face identity and face expression processing.

* equal contributors

2009-2013 ARC Discovery Project with QEII


Investigators: Elinor McKone, Mark Edwards (ANU), Anne Aimola Davies (ANU)
Fellowship: Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship to McKone (50/50 salary from ARC)Title:Integrating holistic processing and facespace approaches to the perception of facial identity.

2007-2010 ARC Discovery Project


Investigators: Linda Jeffery (UWA), Gillian Rhodes (UWA), Elinor McKone (ANU), Daphne Maurer (McMaster) & Elizabeth Pellicano (Oxford)
Title: The role of adaptive coding mechanisms in the development of face perception.

2004-2008 ARC Discovery Project with QEII


Investigators: Elinor McKone, Mark Edwards (ANU), Nancy Kanwisher (MIT)
Fellowship: Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship to McKone (50/50 salary from ARC)
Title: Special cognitive processing for faces: Expertise effects, and links to neural mechanisms.

2002-2004 ARC Discovery Project


Awarded to: Elinor McKone
Title: Face recognition: Properties and origins of whole-face processing Title:Special cognitive processing for faces: Expertise effects, and linksto neural mechanisms.

  • McKone, E. & Palermo, R. (2010). A strong role for nature in face recognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 107(11), 4795-4796. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000567107
  • McKone, E., Kanwisher, N. & Duchaine, B. C. (2007). Can generic expertise explain special processing for faces? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 8-15. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.002
  • Dennett, H.W., McKone, E., Edwards, M., Susilo, T. (2012). Face aftereffects predict individual differences in face recognition ability. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1279-1287. DOI: 10.1177/0956797612446350
  • Robbins R. & McKone, E. (2007). No face-like processing for objects-of-expertise in three behavioural tasks. Cognition, 103, 34-79. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2006.02.008
  • Crookes, K. & McKone, E. (2009). Early maturity of face recognition: No childhood development of holistic processing, novel face encoding, or face-space. Cognition, 111(2), 219-247. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.004
  • Robbins, R. & McKone, E. (2003). Can holistic processing be learned for inverted faces? Cognition, 88, 79-107. DOI: 10.1016/S0010-0277(03)00020-9
  • McKone, E., Crookes, K., Jeffery, L., Dilks, D.D.  (2012) A critical review of the development of face recognition: Experience is less important than previously believed. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 29(1-2), 174-212. DOI: 10.1080/02643294.2012.660138
  • McKone, E., Martini, P., and Nakayama, K. (2001). Categorical perception of face identity in noise isolates configural processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, 573-599. DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.27.3.573
  • McKone, E. & Yovel, G. (2009). Why does picture-plane inversion sometimes dissociate perception of features and spacing in faces, and sometimes not?  Towards a new theory of holistic processing. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16(5), 778-797. DOI: 10.3758/PBR.16.5.778
  • Susilo, T., McKone, E. & Edwards, M.  (2010). Solving the upside-down puzzle: Why do upright and inverted face aftereffects look alike? Journal of Vision, 10(13), 1-16. DOI: 10.1167/10.13.1
  • McKone, E. & Boyer, B. (2006). Sensitivity of 4-year olds to featural and second-order relational changes in face distinctiveness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 94, 134-162. DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2006.01.001
  • Bowles, D. C., McKone, E., Dawel, A., Duchaine, B., Palermo, R., Schmalzl, L., Rivolta, D., Wilson, C. E., Yovel, G. (2009). Diagnosing prosopagnosia: Effects of aging, sex, and participant-stimulus ethnic match on the Cambridge Face Memory Test and Cambridge Face Perception Test. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 26, 423-455. DOI: 10.1080/02643290903343149
  • McKone, E., Brewer, J. L., MacPherson, S., Rhodes, G. & Hayward, W.G. (2007). Familiar other-race faces show normal holistic processing and are robust to perceptual stress. Perception, 36, 224-248. DOI:10.1068/p5499
  • McKone, E. , Hall, A., Pidcock, M., Palermo, P., Wilkinson, R.B., Rivolta, D., Yovel, G., Davis, J. M., O'Connor, K.B.L. (2011). Face ethnicity and measurement reliability affect face recognition performance in developmental prosopagnosia: Evidence from the Cambridge Face Memory Test – Australian. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 28(2), 109-146. DOI: 10.1080/02643294.2011.616880