Cambridge Face Memory Test for Children


CCD researchers develop new tool to test face recognition in children.

The ability to recognise faces is something that most adults take for granted. We don’t think about how long it takes for us to develop that skill. For some individuals, like those with autism or developmental prosopagnosia (or ‘face-blindness’), telling people apart can be a struggle.

While there are good tools available to test this skill in adults, like the Cambridge Face Memory Test, up until now there hasn’t been one suitable for children.

Therefore, CCD researcher Liz Pellicano and her colleagues developed and validated a modified test specifically for children known as the Cambridge Face Memory Test for Children (CFMT-C).

At the beginning of the test, children are told that they will need to memorize a series of different (male) faces. They are then given a line-up of two faces (like the pictures above) and asked to identify which face was one of the faces they had to memorize.

Importantly, the faces are shown in grayscale and don’t have any hair or blemishes. Although this view of faces isn’t one seen in the real world, this method ensures that the children focus on the internal features of the face – the eyes, nose and mouth – and their configuration in order to be able to recognise the face. In this way, the test specifically targets children’s face recognition skills.

In the experiment used to validate the test, it was sensitive enough to pick up differences between children of different ages: older children performed much better on the test than younger children. It was also able to detect subtle difficulties in face recognition skills in a group of children on the autism spectrum. The full paper is available online.

The study showed that this is a valid and reliable test for assessing children’s face recognition skills. It is freely available for use by researchers. The test can be downloaded here and below are the verbal instructions for administering the test.

Verbal Instructions for the Cambridge Face Memory Test for Children

This task is going to be on the computer, and it’s all about faces. You are going to learn what some faces look like, and then we’re going to see how well you can remember them.

(For inverted version: now before we start, I’ll just tell you that there’s going to be something a bit strange about the faces you’re going to see in this task. They’re all going to be upside down. So don’t worry, my computer hasn’t gone wrong!)


We’ll start off with a nice, easy practice one so that you can get the hang of what to do. You are going to see a face and I want you to look at it really carefully so you can remember what it looks like. After you’ve seen it from three different angles, we’ll give you a little test to see if you can remember it. Does that sound ok?

I think you’ll recognize who this first person is … yes, it’s Bart Simpson! So first you see his face looking over in that direction [point], now you see him again this time looking at you and again looking somewhere over there [point]. [Important to emphasise that they see the same faces three times, just in different views.]

Now, this is the test part, the computer is showing you two faces, and all you have to do is decide which of these faces you have just seen. If you think it was face 1 (point on screen) then you press 1 (point on keyboard) and if you think it was face 2 (point on screen) then you press 2 (point on keyboard).


Well done! You got all those practice ones right, that’s brilliant! Now we’re going to do exactly the same thing, but this time with real faces. So you’re going to learn about the faces of five different people – five boys – are you ready to give the first one a go?

This is the first face. So you see him first facing in that direction [point], now he’s looking at you and now he’s facing me. Now there are two faces. Which face did you just see? Excellent, well done!

Now, here is the second face … [and so on until the child sees all 5 faces.]

Ok, that was really good, well done! Now you’re going to see those same five target faces again. Have a really careful look at them so you can remember what they look like.

For the rest of the task, it’ll be just like the ones you’ve been doing. You’ll see two faces, and all you have to do is choose which one you’ve seen before. If you think face 1 is one of the five target faces you’ve just been looking at then you press 1, and if you think face 2 is, then you press 2. So you see the right answer can be any one of those five faces you’ve just seen. Sometimes the wrong face can look very like the right face, so make sure you look really carefully at both faces before you answer. Do you understand what you have to do? [clarify if necessary, or guidethem through the first trial.] Ready to go?


OK, that was really good! Have another careful look at the five target faces so you can remember what they look like. In this next part, it’ll be just the same as before, except this timethe faces are going to be a bit fuzzy. So if you find it a bit trickier, don’t worry at all.