Regional variation in the inversion effect for faces: differential effects for feature shape, feature configuration, and external contour.

Abstract

Faces are perceived via an orientation-dependent expert mechanism. We previously showed that inversion impaired perception of the spatial relations of features more in the lower face than in the (more salient) upper face, suggests a failure to rapidly process this type of structural data from the entire face. In this study we wished to determine if this interaction between inversion and regional salience, which we consider a marker for efficient whole-face processing, was specific to second-order (coordinate) spatial relations or also affected other types of structural information in faces. We used an oddity paradigm to test the ability of seventeen subjects to discriminate changes in feature size, feature spatial relations, and external contour in both the upper and lower face. We also tested fourteen subjects on perception of two different types of spatial relations: second-order changes that create plausible alternative faces, and illegal spatial changes that transgress normal rules of facial geometry. In both experiments we examined for asymmetries between upper-face and lower-face perceptual accuracy with brief stimulus presentations. While all structural changes were less easily discerned in inverted faces, only changes to spatial relations showed a marked asymmetry between the upper and lower face, with far worse performance in the mouth region. Furthermore, this asymmetry was found only for second-order spatial relations and not illegal spatial changes. These results suggest that the orientation-dependent face mechanism has a rapid whole-face processing capacity specific to the internal second-order (coordinate) spatial relations of facial features.

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@article{Malcolm2004RegionalVI, title={Regional variation in the inversion effect for faces: differential effects for feature shape, feature configuration, and external contour.}, author={George L. Malcolm and Connie Yin-Hung Leung and Jason J. S. Barton}, journal={Perception}, year={2004}, volume={33 10}, pages={1221-31} }