A unique look at face processing: The impact of masked faces on the processing of facial features

Mark A. Williams*, Simon A. Moss, John L. Bradshaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This experiment utilized a masked priming paradigm to explore the early processes involved in face recognition. The first experiment investigated implicit processing of the eyes and mouth in an upright face, using prime durations of 33 and 50 ms. The results demonstrate implicit processing of both the eyes and mouth, and support the configural processing theory of face processing. The second experiment used the same method with inverted faces and the third experiment was a combination of Experiments 1 and 2. The fourth experiment utilized misaligned faces as the primes. Based on the pattern of results from these experiments, we suggest that, when a face is inverted, the eyes and mouth are initially processed individually and are not linked until a later stage of processing. An upright face is proposed to be processed by analysis of its configuration, whereas an inverted face is initially processed using first-order relational information, and then converted to an upright representation and transferred to face specific regions for configural analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-172
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Configural processing
  • Face perception
  • Holistic processing
  • Masked priming


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