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Face recognition with unknown, partial distortion and occlusion is a practical problem, and has a wide range of applications, including security and multimedia information retrieval. The authors present a new approach to face recognition subject to unknown, partial distortion and occlusion. The new approach is based on a probabilistic decision-based neural network, enhanced by a statistical method called the posterior union model (PUM). PUM is an approach for ignoring severely mismatched local features and focusing the recognition mainly on the reliable local features. It thereby improves the robustness while assuming no prior information about the corruption. We call the new approach the posterior union decision-based neural network (PUDBNN). The new PUDBNN model has been evaluated on three face image databases (XM2VTS, AT&T and AR) using testing images subjected to various types of simulated and realistic partial distortion and occlusion. The new system has been compared to other approaches and has demonstrated improved performance.