Disrupting perceptual grouping of face parts impairs holistic face processing

Kim M. Curby, Rebecca R. Goldstein, Kara Blacker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Face perception is widely believed to involve integration of facial features into a holistic perceptual unit, but the mechanisms underlying this integration are relatively unknown. We examined whether perceptual grouping cues influence a classic marker of holistic face perception, the "composite-face effect." Participants made same-different judgments about a cued part of sequentially presented chimeric faces, and holistic processing was indexed as the degree to which the task-irrelevant face halves impacted performance. Grouping was encouraged or discouraged by adjusting the backgrounds behind the face halves: Although the face halves were always aligned, their respective backgrounds could be misaligned and of different colors. Holistic processing of face, but not of nonface, stimuli was significantly reduced when the backgrounds were misaligned and of different colors, cues that discouraged grouping of the face halves into a cohesive unit (Exp. 1). This effect was sensitive to stimulus orientation at short (200 ms) but not at long (2,500 ms) encoding durations, consistent with the previously documented temporal properties of the holistic processing of upright and inverted faces (Exps. 2 and 3). These results suggest that grouping mechanisms, typically involved in the perception of objecthood more generally, might contribute in important ways to the holistic perception of faces.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-91
    Number of pages9
    JournalAttention, Perception and Psychophysics
    Issue number1
    Early online date22 Nov 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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