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Adelaide de Heering, Bruno Rossion, Chiara Turati, Francesca Simion; Holistic face processing can be independent of gaze behavior: Evidence from the face composite effect. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):502. doi: 10.1167/7.9.502.
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People tend to perceive identical top halves (i.e. above the nose) of two face stimuli as being different when they are aligned with distinct bottom halves. This face composite illusion has been demonstrated almost 20 years ago (Young et al., 1987), and is generally considered as the most compelling evidence that facial features are integrated into a holistic representation. Here we recorded eye movements during the face composite effect, i.e. when the top and the bottom parts of a composite face stimulus are integrated into a single holistic face representation. The behavioral results showed a strong face composite effect when subjects maintained fixation to the top part of the face stimulus. Fixation sites and eye movements were virtually identical when the top and bottom parts were aligned (composite illusion) or misaligned (no illusion), indicating that holistic face processing can be independent of gaze behavior. These findings reinforce the view that holistic representations of individual faces can be extracted early on from low spatial frequency analysis, independently of overt attention.
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