Abstract The paper considers partial least squares (PLS) as a new dimension reduction technique for the feature vector to overcome the small sample size problem in face recognition. Principal component analysis (PCA), a conventional dimension reduction method, selects the components with maximum variability, irrespective of the class information. So PCA does not necessarily extract features that are important for the discrimination of classes. PLS, on the other hand, constructs the components so that the correlation between the class variable and themselves is maximized. Therefore PLS components are more predictive than PCA components in classification. The experimental results on Manchester and ORL databases show that PLS is to be preferred over PCA when classification is the goal and dimension reduction is needed.