The upper-hemifield advantage for masked face processing: not just an attentional bias

Genevieve L. Quek*, Matthew Finkbeiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Recent evidence suggests that face processing may be more robust in the upper visual field (UVF) than in the lower visual field (LVF). We asked whether this UVF advantage is due to an upward bias in participants’ visuospatial attention. Participants classified the sex of a UVF or LVF target face that was preceded by a congruent or incongruent masked prime face. We manipulated spatial attention within subjects by varying the predictability of target location across sessions (UVF:LVF ratio of 50:50 on Day 1 and 20:80 on Day 2). When target location was unpredictable, priming emerged earlier in the UVF (~165 ms) than the LVF (~195 ms). This UVF advantage was reversed when targets were more likely to be presented in the LVF. Here priming arose earlier for LVF targets (~53 ms) than UVF targets (~165 ms). Critically, however, UVF primes were processed to the same degree regardless of whether spatial attention was diffuse (Day 1) or deployed elsewhere (Day 2). We conclude that, while voluntarily directed spatial attention is sufficient to modulate the processing of masked faces in the LVF, it is not sufficient to explain the UVF advantage for masked face processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-68
Number of pages17
JournalAttention, Perception and Psychophysics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Attention
  • Faces
  • Lower visual field
  • Upper visual field
  • Vertical asymmetry


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