Subcortical human face processing? Evidence from masked priming

Shah Khalid*, Matthew Finkbeiner, Peter König, Ulrich Ansorge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Face processing without awareness might depend on subcortical structures (retino-collicular projection), cortical structures, or a combination of the two. The present study was designed to tease apart these possibilities. Because the retino-collicular projection is more sensitive to low spatial frequencies, we used masked (subliminal) face prime images that were spatially low-pass filtered, or high-pass filtered. The masked primes were presented in the periphery prior to clearly visible target faces. Participants had to discriminate between male and female target faces and we recorded prime-target congruence effects- that is, the difference in discrimination speed between congruent pairs (with prime and target of the same sex) and incongruent pairs (with prime and target of different sexes). In two experiments, we consistently find that masked low-pass filtered face primes produce a congruence effect and that masked high-pass filtered face primes do not. Together our results support the assumption that the retino-collicular route which carries the low spatial frequencies also conveys sex specific features of face images contributing to subliminal face processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-1002
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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