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Isabel Gauthier, James W. Tanaka; Configural and holistic face processing: The Whole story. Journal of Vision 2002;2(7):616. doi: 10.1167/2.7.616.
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Gauthier and Tarr recently distinguished between holistic-inclusive (the use of even the parts of an object that one is told to ignore) and holistic-configural (the use of the relationship between parts) and found that both increase with object expertise. With faces, these effects have often been confounded and all the baselines necessary to understand their nature have often not been used. In two experiments, we consider both holistic-configural and holistic-inclusive in a face part matching task. Our subjects performed sequential matching judgments on parts of face composites made out of the top and bottom halves of 12 unfamiliar faces. The face parts were shown in isolation or together; aligned or misaligned and the to-be-ignored part was either consistent or inconsistent with the correct response. Conditions where the second stimuli was an isolated part provided baselines revealing whether the effects on part matching were due to interference from transformed and inconsistent parts, or from facilitation from original parts. The sensitivity (d') results indicate that the holistic-configural effect is due to the test face configuration and does not depend on the studied face configuration. This effect resulted from interference from an unusual configuration, rather than from a within-trial configural change. In addition, we find that the holistic-inclusive effect (consistency effect of the to-be-ignored parts) is present both with aligned and misaligned face composites. This effect was mediated by interference from inconsistent parts in all conditions except when the faces compared were identical and had aligned parts: then we also find facilitation from a consistent part. The results provide a more complete description of holistic-inclusive and holistic-configural processing and suggest that most of the effects obtained here with faces and previously with novel objects in experts are better conceptualized as interference effects.
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