Dr. Jessie Peissig, Psychology


Ph.D., University of Iowa
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Brown University

Research Areas

We explore how the brain processes faces, objects, and facial emotions.

Our research focuses on various facets of how the brain processes faces and objects. These studies use a face database of normal, disguised, and emotional faces that we collected. This allows us to study how people recognize faces that have been disguised, and what affects people’s ability to recognize emotional expressions. Thus far we have learned that people are quite poor at recognizing faces in which a disguise has been added, even if they have seen the face on numerous previous occasions. Both changing the hair and adding or subtracting glasses lead to decreases in performance. Comparisons for disguises using glasses revealed that subtracting glasses is more disruptive than adding glasses. In addition, we have found that a disguise consisting of clear lenses yields the same type of increased error rate as glasses with tinted lenses, suggesting that recognition may be affected more by obscuring the eyebrows than by the iris and sclera. Related to this, we have a set of studies that have shown that eyebrows are indeed quite important for recognizing individual faces.

We also have a set of studies looking at emotion recognition. These studies have shown that genuine expressions are more difficult to recognize than posed emotions. We have also found that being familiar with a face helps recognize the emotion, but only if it is an emotion that is very difficult to recognize. For easier to recognize emotions, familiarity may actually hinder recognition.

These studies will provide critical information for understanding our ability to recognize individuals and their emotions, an important social task for humans and other social animals.


  1. Peissig, J. J.& Goode, T.‡ (in press). How animals recognize rotated objects. Chapter for How Animals See the World: Behavior, Biology, and Evolution of Vision, Oxford University Press.
  2. Bukach, C. M. & Peissig, J. J. (2010). How faces became special.  In I. Gauthier, M. J. Tarr, & D. Bub (Eds.), Perceptual Expertise: Bridging Brain and Behavior (pp. 11-39). New York, New York, Oxford University Press.
  3. Kung, C., Peissig, J. J., & Tarr, M. J. (2007). Is region of interest overlap analysis a reliable test of category selectivity? Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 2019-2034.
  4. Peissig, J. J., Singer, J., Kawasaki, K. & Sheinberg, D.L. (2007). Effects of long-term object familiarity on event-related potentials in the monkey. Cerebral Cortex, 17, 1323-1334.
  5. Peissig, J. J. & Tarr, M. J. (2007).  Object recognition:  Do we know more today than we did twenty years ago?  In S. T. Fiske, A. E. Kazdin, & D. L. Schacter (Eds.), Annual review of psychology: Volume 58 (pp. 75-96). Palo Alto, CA:  Annual Reviews Press.

Grants & Special Projects

Honors and Awards

  • 2007-present, Appointment as the American Psychological Association Div. 3 Early Career Psychologist Representative
  • 2004, American Psychological Association Brenda A. Milner Award (Div. 6) for an outstanding paper by a member within five years of having received the Ph.D.
Recent Student Awards Include:
  • 2011, Graduate student Shiela Kelly won the Outstanding MS Student Award for 2010-2011
  • 2010, Undergraduates Amanda Killian and Carol Huynh were each awarded Faculty/Student Creative Activity Grants