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Goedele Van Belle, Peter De Graef, Karl Verfaillie, Bruno Rossion, Philippe Lefèvre; Face inversion impairs holistic perception: Evidence from gaze-contingent stimulation. Journal of Vision 2010;10(5):10. doi: 10.1167/10.5.10.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Human observers are experts at face recognition, yet a simple 180° rotation of a face photograph decreases recognition performance substantially. A full understanding of this phenomenon—which is believed to be important for clarifying the nature of our expertise in face recognition—is still waiting. According to a long-standing and influential hypothesis, an inverted face cannot be perceived as holistically as an upright face and has to be analyzed local feature by local feature. Here, we tested this holistic perception hypothesis of the face inversion effect by means of a gaze-contingent stimulus presentation. When observers' perception was restricted to one fixated feature at a time by a gaze-contingent window, performance in an individual face matching task was almost unaffected by inversion. However, when a mask covered the fixated feature, preventing the use of local information at high resolution, the decrement of performance with inversion was even larger than in a normal—full view—condition. These observations provide evidence that the face inversion effect is caused by an inability to perceive the individual face as a whole rather than as a collection of specific features and thus support the view that observers' expertise at upright face recognition is due to the ability to perceive an individual face holistically.
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