Notes on the semiotics of face recognition


  • Remo Gramigna Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences, University of Turin, Torino, Italy
  • Cristina Voto Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences, University of Turin, Torino, Italy/ Department of Arts and Culture, Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Argentina



face recognition, personal identification, semiotics of the face, semiotics of recognition, face perception


Perceiving and recognizing others via their faces is of pivotal importance. The ability to perceive others in the environment – to discern between friends and foes, selves and others – as well as to detect and seek to predict their possible moves, plans, and intentions, is a set of skills that has proved to be essential in the evolutionary history of humankind. The aim of this study is to explore the subject of face recognition as a semiotic phenomenon. The scope of this inquiry is limited to face perception by the human species. The human face is analysed on the threshold between biological processes and cultural processes. We argue that the recognition of likenesses has a socio-cultural dimension that should not be overlooked. By drawing on Georg Lichtenberg’s remarks on physiognomy, we discuss the critique of the semiotic bias, the association of ideas, and the mechanism of typification involved in face recognition. Face typification is discussed against the background of face recognition and face identification. We take them as three gradients of meaning that map out a network of relationships concerning different cognitive operations that are at stake when dealing with the recognition of faces.


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How to Cite

Gramigna, R., & Voto, C. (2021). Notes on the semiotics of face recognition. Sign Systems Studies, 49(3-4), 338–360.