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Nick Donnelly, Tamaryn Menneer, Katherine Cornes, Natalie Mestry, Rosaleen McCarthy; Detecting the Thatcher illusion in a case of prosopagnosia. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):557. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.8.557.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We explored configural face processing in a prosopagnosic patient (PHD, Eimer and McCarthy, 1999) who does not produce an N170 is response for faces. In two sets of studies he was presented with two versions of the Thatcher illusion. In the first set, he was asked to detect Thatcherized from matched typical faces from successive single presentations of faces. He also performed a simultaneous 2 alternative forced choice (2AFC) discrimination task with the same stimulus set to address the question of whether pairs of faces were the same or different. In the second set he was asked to detect Thatcherized from matched typical faces. He also performed in control conditions where orientation decisions were made to isolated eye and mouth features, as well as eye and mouth features presented alone but within face outlines. The results were analyzed using d-prime and C to facilitate cross condition comparisons. The data showed PHD unable to detect Thatcherized from matched typical faces in either study 1 or 2. However, he was as sensitive as controls in the 2AFC discrimination condition of Study 1. In study 2 he showed evidence of moderate sensitivity to the identification of orientation for isolated features; this sensitivity was much enhanced for eyes by face outlines but hindered for mouths. We interpret these findings as showing intact feature processing that should be sufficient to allow the detection of the Thatcher illusion, as well as some evidence of relational processing for eyes but not mouths. However, simultaneous presentation of features and face outline does not allow selective attention to eyes that would enable detection of Thatcherized from matched typical faces. The results suggest one aspect of successful face categorization is to determine face-specific configural routines that allocate attention within faces and that these are missing in PHD.
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