Alice O'Toole

Aage and Margareta Møller Professor
Endowed Professorship - Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Faculty Page
Tags: Cognition and Neuroscience

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Experimental Psychology
Brown University - 1988
M.S. - Experimental Psychology
Brown University - 1985
B.A. - Psychology
The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC - 1983

Research Areas

Research Interests

I am a Professor in the Cognition and Neuroscience program at The University of Texas at Dallas. My research interests include perception, memory, and cognition, with special interests in recognition memory for faces. Recent work in my lab is concerned more generally with how we recognize people, both from moving and static displays. We have also developed and tested computational models of face recognition and have tried to link the performance of these models to the characteristics of human performance on similar tasks. Combined, the human memory and computational studies are useful for developing theoretical ideas about how the brain represents the highly complex visual information in human faces.

My research interests include perception, memory, and cognition, with special interests in recognition memory for faces.  Recent work in my lab is aimed at understanding how we recognize people, both from moving and static displays. We are also working on comparing human performance on face recognition tasks to the performance of state-of-the-art face recognition algorithms. Another effort in my lab is focused on functional neuroimaging of high level vision, with emphasis on the use of pattern-based classifiers to analyze neural activation patterns.


Natu, V. & O’Toole, A. J. (2011). The neural processing of familiar and unfamiliar faces: A review and synopsis. British Journal of Psychology.           2011 - Publication
Phillips, P.J., Beveridge, J. R., Draper, B. A., Givens, G., O’Toole, A. J., Bolme, D. Dunlop, J. Lui, Y. M. Sahizada, H. & Wiemer, S. (2011). An Introduction to the Good, Bad, & Ugly Challenge Problem. Proceedings of the 9th IEEE International Conference on Automatic Face and Gesture Recognition.           2011 - Publication
Natu, V. S., Jiang, F. Narvekar, A., Keshvari, S., Blanz, V. & O'Toole, A. J. (2010). Dissociable neural patterns of facial identity across changes in viewpoint. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(7), 1570-1582. 2010 - Publication
Quinn, P. C., Conforto, A., Lee, K., O'Toole, A. J., Pascalis, O. Slater, A. M. (2010). Infant preference for individual women's faces extends to girl prototype faces. Infant Behavior and Development, 33, 357-360. 2010 - Publication
Phillips, P.J., Scruggs, W. T., O'Toole, A.J., Flynn, P. J., Bowyer, K. W., Schott, C. L., Sharpe, M. (2010). FRVT 2006 and ICE 2006 large-scale experimental results. IEEE: Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 32(5), 831-846. 2010 - Publication
O'Toole, A. J. & Roark, D. A. (2010). Memory for moving faces: The interplay of two recognition systems. In (Eds. M. Giese, C. Curio, & H.H. Balthoff). Dynamic Faces: Insights from Experiments and Computation. MIT Press, Cambridge: MA. 2010 - Publication
O'Toole, A. J. (2010). Cognitive and Computational Approaches to Face Perception. In (Eds. A. Calder, G. Rhodes, J. V. Haxby, & M. Johnson). Handbook of Face Perception. Oxford University Press, Oxford: UK. 2010 - Publication
O'Toole, A. J. & Tistarelli, M. (2009). Face recognition by humans and machines. In (Ed. M. Tistarelli, S. Li, & R. Chellappa). Handbook of remote biometrics for surveillance and security. Springer-Verlag. 2009 - Publication
Otsuka, Y., Konishi, Y., Yamaguchi, M., Abdi, H. & O'Toole, A.J. (2009). The recognition of moving and static faces by young infants. Child Development, 80(4) 1259-1271 2009 - Publication
Barrett, S.E., & O'Toole, A.J. (2009). Face adaptation to gender: Does adaptation transfer across age categories? Visual Cognition, 17(5), 700-715. 2009 - Publication


The University of Texas at Dallas [1999–Present]
Associate Professor(tenure)
The University of Texas at Dallas [1995–1999]
Assistant Professor
The University of Texas at Dallas [1989–1994]
Postdoctoral Fellow
Universitie de Bourgogne, Dijon, France [1989–Present]
Postdoctoral Fellow
Universitie de Bourgogne, Dijon, France [1988–1988]
Research Assistant
Brown University [1985–1988]
Research Assistant
Brown University [1983–1984]
Center for Cognitive Science
Research Assistant
The Catholic University of America [1982–1983]


Gender adaptation effects across shape based categories of faces
2018–2018 Barrett, S. E. O'Toole, A. J., Jiang, F. Chomiak, L. B., Gray, A. L. Highhill, D.S., 6th Annual Meeting of the Vision Science Society, Sarasota
Prototypereferences shape perception.
2001–2001 O'Toole, A. (2001) Invited Talk, Perceptual Expertise Network Group, Brown University, November, 2001.
Pattem-based analyses for brain-imaging data: Applications to face processing.
2003–2003 Abdi, H. Jiang, F., O'Toole, A.J., & Haxby, J. V. (2003). 44rd Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Vancouver, BC, Nov, 2003.
When does an unfamiliar face become familiar? The effect of image type and familiarity on face recognition.
2006–2006 Roark, D. A., Abdi, H., O'Toole, A. J. (2006) 6th Annual Meeting of the Vision Science Society, Sarasota, FL, May, 2006.
Exploring face representation in humans and monkeys with high level alter-effects.
2002–2002 Leopold, D. A., Bondar, I. V., O'Toole, A. J. & Logothethis, N. K. (2002).European Conference on Visual Perception, Glasgow Scotland, August, 2002.

Additional Information

Personal Statement

My research interests include human perception, memory, and cognition, with an emphasis on computational approaches to modeling human information processing. I received a B.A. in Psychology (1983) from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, and a M.S. (1985) and Ph.D. (1988) in Experimental Psychology from Brown University, Providence, RI. Subsequently, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France, supported by the French Embassy to the United States, and at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Télécommunications, Paris, France.

In 1989, I came to the University of Texas at Dallas, where I established a laboratory for visual perception and image/object recognition experiments. In 1994-1996 I participated in two 6 month sabbaticals at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. There, I worked on a variety of projects aimed at modeling the perceptual information in three-dimensional laser scans of human heads and relating this information to human memory for faces.

I have continued this collaboration and have also continued on work at UTD on human memory for faces, and computational models of visual perception. I am currently working on two projects. The first is aimed at understanding how we recognize people from multiple, dynamic, biometric cues to identity. The second involves computational modeling of data from functional neuroimaging experiments.

Professional Service

Ad hoc Reviewer (selected, last 3 years):
Acta Psychological, Brain & Cognition, British Journal of Developmental Psycholgy, Child Development, Cognitive Psychology, Current Biology, IEEE Transactions on Pattem Analysis and Machine Intelligence, Memory & Cognition, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Perception, Psychological Science, Pattem Recognition Letters, Science, PloS Biology, Vision Research, Visual Cognition

Editorial Board
Vision Science Society, Annual Meeting, 2002-present

Grant Proposal Review :
National Institutes of Mental Health - Perception and Cognition Review Panel, Visiting Member (2001-2003)
National Science Foundation Reviewer - Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience - Panel Member (2005)

Co-chair with Daniel Levin:
6th Annual Workshop on Object Perception and Memory - Dallas, TX Nov. 19, 1998


Postdoctoral Fellow, supported by the French Embassy to the United States, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France.

Post-Doctoral Fellow, January-July, 1989, Continued funding and joint affiliation, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Télécomrnunications, Paris and Laboratoire de Psychologie, Universitéde Bourgogne, Dijon, France.

Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, (Aug., 1994 - Jan.,1995; Aug., 1995 - Jan., 1996), Max Planck Institiit iiir biologische Kybemetik, Tubingen, Germany.

News Articles

Prof Shares Facial Recognition Security Research
A UT Dallas professor recently presented her research on biometric security technology to officials of the United Kingdom’s Home Office, which oversees the nation’s anti-terrorism and crime-fighting efforts. Dr. Alice O’Toole, a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, went to London to present her findings at the Biometrics Exhibition and Conference. There, she participated in an international panel discussion of leading-edge applications for biometrics. Biometrics is the measurement of physical characteristics to identify individuals, such as fingerprints, DNA, retinal patterns or facial features. During the October conference, the United Kingdom’s Home Office hosted a smaller meeting for prominent academics and government officials. The Olympics are slated for London in 2012, so security leaders were particularly interested in how biometrics might be used to protect against terrorism or other types of crime, O’Toole said.
Research Gives Second Look to Facial Recognition Decisions
Two heads are better than one — so goes the common adage. But are two heads collaborating really more effective at making decisions than two working independently?
When it comes to the task of face recognition, the answer is “no,” according to a study from The University of Texas at Dallas’ Face Perception Research Lab.

Dr. Alice O’Toole, professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and holder of the Aage and Margareta Møller Endowed Chair, was senior author of the study published recently in the British Journal of Psychology.
Study Recognizes Value of Forensic Expertise in Facial Identification
Analysts with training and experience are much better at the forensic art of facial recognition than either computer algorithms or other people, according to a new study co-authored by a UT Dallas professor. 

Dr. Alice O’Toole, Aage and Margareta Møller Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, said forensics are key to investigations and court cases. She said studies such as this one are important when considering the veracity of evidence in the investigations. 
BBS Team Evaluating Facial Recognition Techniques
Rapid improvements in facial-recognition software mean airport security workers might one day know with near certainty whether they’re looking at a stressed-out tourist or staring a terrorist in the eye.

A research team led by Dr. Alice O’Toole, a professor in The University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, is evaluating how well these rapidly evolving recognition programs work. The researchers are comparing the rates of success for the software to the rates for non-technological, but presumably “expert” human evaluation.
Psychological Study Explores How Bodies Shape First Impressions
When you first meet someone, it’s likely that you judge their personality based on what little information you have.
While what we infer from faces has been well studied, new research from The University of Texas at Dallas suggests that people also form first impressions from body shapes.
Ying “Nina” Hu, a doctoral student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, is the lead author of the study, recently published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Hu works in the Face Perception Research Lab of Dr. Alice O’Toole, professor of cognition and neuroscience and the Aage and Margareta Møller Professor.


Face recognition performance: Man versus machine
$405,000 - [2006–2008]
Evaluating face and person recognition algorithms with human benchmarks
$325,000 - [2004–2006]
Person recognition from video using multiple biometric cues DARPA/ONR
$545,000 - HumanID Program [2003–2004]
Benchmarking human face matching performance over changes in photometric conditions
$638,000 - Technical Support Working Group [2003–2005]
$22,000 - HumanID Program Initiative [2000–2000]