Holistic processing of faces: perceptual and decisional components.

Richler JJ, Gauthier I, Wenger MJ, Palmeri TJ
J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2008 34 (2): 328-42

PMID: 18315409 · DOI:10.1037/0278-7393.34.2.328

Researchers have used several composite face paradigms to assess holistic processing of faces. In the selective attention paradigm, participants decide whether one face part (e.g., top) is the same as a previously seen face part. Their judgment is affected by whether the irrelevant part of the test face is the same as or different than the relevant part of the study face. This failure of selective attention implies holistic processing. However, the authors show that this task alone cannot distinguish between perceptual and decisional sources of holism. The distinction can be addressed by the complete identification paradigm, in which both face parts are judged to be same or different, combined with analyses based on general recognition theory (F. G. Ashby & J. T. Townsend, 1986). The authors used a different paradigm, sequential responses, to relate these 2 paradigms empirically and theoretically. Sequential responses produced the same results as did selective attention and complete identification. Moreover, disruptions of holistic processing by systematic misalignment of the faces corresponded with systematic and significant changes in the decisional components, but not in the perceptual components, that were extracted using general recognition theory measures. This finding suggests a significant decisional component of holistic face processing in the composite face task.

MeSH Terms (17)

Adolescent Adult Attention Cues Decision Making Discrimination (Psychology) Face Female Humans Judgment Male Orientation Pattern Recognition, Visual Perceptual Distortion Problem Solving Psychophysics Reaction Time

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