Facial perception: A special case of visual perception?
Jensen, Dean G.
Lane, David M.
Doctor of Philosophy
This study explored whether faces are perceived differently than other visual stimuli. Using the speeded-classification task, evidence of holistic processing was found for faces with normal organization but not for the same stimuli when the eyes, nose, and lips were not in their ordinary positions. Sets of interior features (eyebrows, eyes, nose, and lips) were subsequently tested for holistic processing. No evidence for holistic processing was found between eyebrow/eye and nose/lips groups or between the nose and the lips. However, it was found that decisions on the eyebrows could be made independently of the eyes but that decisions on the eyes could not be made independently of the eyebrows. This asymmetric-separable relationship persisted when the eyes and eyebrows were presented by themselves or in the context of a face, when they were presented upright or inverted, and when either a single eye/eyebrow or both eyes/eyebrows were presented. Decisions on inverted eyes were more difficult than decisions on upright eyes. No evidence of holistic processing was found for an eye/eyebrow presented in the context of non-facial stimuli. These results suggest that the asymmetric-separable relationship between the eyes and the eyebrows plays a role in the unique characteristics associated with the perception of faces.