The recognition of emotional expression in prosopagnosia: decoding whole and part faces

Blossom Christa Maree Stephan*, Nora Breen, Diana Caine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Prosopagnosia is currently viewed within the constraints of two competing theories of face recognition, one highlighting the analysis of features, the other focusing on configural processing of the whole face. This study investigated the role of feature analysis versus whole face configural processing in the recognition of facial expression. A prosopagnosic patient, SC made expression decisions from whole and incomplete (eyes-only and mouth-only) faces where features had been obscured. SC was impaired at recognizing some (e.g., anger, sadness, and fear), but not all (e.g., happiness) emotional expressions from the whole face. Analyses of his performance on incomplete faces indicated that his recognition of some expressions actually improved relative to his performance on the whole face condition. We argue that in SC interference from damaged configural processes seem to override an intact ability to utilize part-based or local feature cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-895
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Agnosia for faces
  • Configural processing
  • Expression recognition
  • Featural processing
  • Information processing


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