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Evidence for holistic processing of faces viewed as photographic negatives
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 18:19 authored by Graham Hole, Patricia A George, Victoria Dunsmore
Inversion and photographic negation both impair face recognition. Inversion seems to disrupt processing of the spatial relationship between facial features ('relational' processing) which normally occurs with upright faces and which facilitates their recognition. It remains unclear why negation affects recognition. To find out if negation impairs relational processing, we investigated whether negative faces are subject to the 'chimeric-face effect'. Recognition of the top half of a composite face (constructed from top and bottom halves of different faces) is difficult when the face is upright, but not when it is inverted. To perform this task successfully, the bottom half of the face has to be disregarded, but the relational processing which normally occurs with upright faces makes this difficult. Inversion reduces relational processing and thus facilitates performance on this particular task. In our experiments, subjects saw pairs of chimeric faces and had to decide whether or not the top halves were identical. On half the trials the two chimeras had identical tops; on the remaining trials the top halves were different. (The bottom halves were always different.) All permutations of orientation (upright or inverted) and luminance (normal or negative) were used. In experiment 1, each pair of 'identical' top halves were the same in all respects. Experiment 2 used differently oriented views of the same person, to preclude matches being based on incidental features of the images rather than the faces displayed within them. In both experiments, similar chimeric-face effects were obtained with both positive and negative faces, implying that negative faces evoke some form of relational processing. It is argued that there may be more than one kind of relational processing involved in face recognition: the 'chimeric-face effect' may reflect an initial 'holistic' processing which binds facial features into a 'Gestalt', rather than being a demonstration of the configurational processing involved in individual recognition.
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