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Tamaryn Menneer, Natalie Mestry, Michael Wenger, Nick Donnelly; Tests for Configural processing in the Thatcher Illusion. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):635. doi: 10.1167/12.9.635.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Thatcherisation of facial features is immediately apparent only in upright faces. Detection of Thatcherisation is therefore widely upheld as being dependent on configural processing. Configural processing has clear predictions of perceptual dependence between facial features and of supercapacity processing.
Perceptual dependence: Configurality in General Recognition Theory (GRT, Ashby & Townsend, 1986) can be conceptualized in terms of violations of perceptual independence, in which the perceptions of the eyes and mouth of a single face are positively correlated; for example, the more inverted the eyes look, the more inverted the mouth will look. Participants were briefly presented with normal, partially Thatcherised and fully Thatcherised faces, and were asked to report whether the outline, eyes and mouth were upright or inverted. Consistent with the predictions, multi-dimensional probit models (DeCarlo, 2003) revealed that within-stimulus perceptual interactions occurred more frequently for upright than inverted faces. However, for the Thatcherised stimulus itself, there was no overall correlation between the eyes and the mouth, suggesting a lack of configural processing for this type of stimulus.
Processing capacity: Supercapacity processing is predicted to accompany configural processing (O’Toole, Wenger & Townsend, 2001; Wenger & Townsend, 2001). Therefore, the detection of Thatcherised features in upright faces should be marked by supercapacity processing of inverted eyes and mouths relative to the inversion of only eyes or only mouths. Response times were used to compute measures of processing capacity (capacity coefficient, Townsend & Wenger, 2004; proportional hazards ratio, Wenger & Gibson, 2006) in Thatcherised upright faces. Results demonstrated limited evidence of supercapacity processing, and only in some individuals, implying that configural processing is not necessary for processing of upright Thatcherised faces.
In summary, predictions from GRT and of processing capacity were tested across two separate studies, with little evidence found for perceptual independence or supercapacity processing for Thatcherised face stimuli.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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