August 2010
Volume 10, Issue 7
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2010
Heads, bodies and holistic processing in person recognition
Author Affiliations
  • Rachel Robbins
    MACCS, Faculty of Human Science, Macquarie University
    Psychology/MARCS, College of Arts, University of Western Sydney
  • Max Coltheart
    MACCS, Faculty of Human Science, Macquarie University
Journal of Vision August 2010, Vol.10, 680. doi:
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      Rachel Robbins, Max Coltheart; Heads, bodies and holistic processing in person recognition. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):680.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Interest has recently increased into how we recognise human bodies, as well as faces. Here we present two experiments on body identity. Experiment 1 tested holistic processing of unfamiliar bodies using a same-different matching version composite task. Results for top-, bottom-, left- and right-halves of bodies were compared to those for top-halves of faces (where the effect is generally largest). Orientation was manipulated between subjects. Results replicated previous findings of a larger composite effect for upright than inverted faces. Results also showed holistic processing for bodies, which was most apparent for left-right splits. This may be because gestures etc. require more integration across left and right halves of the body than top and bottom halves, and because the left-right splits always included the head. In Experiment 2 we tested the relative importance of head versus body to person recognition. We trained subjects to name 6 females from full-body pictures. Subjects then named new images, both upright and inverted, with sometimes only head or body shown. We also included head-body composites (head of one person, body of another). Subjects had a strong tendency to correctly identify the head of these composites (80%) rather than the body (10%). Inversion made people less likely to correctly recognise heads (62%) but slightly more likely to correctly recognise bodies (14%). Upright recognition was best for whole body (93%) and head-only pictures (91%), but still very good for body-only pictures (63%). Large inversion effects were shown for whole bodies (22%), head-only (25%) and body-only (15%; all significant, ps <.01). This is in contrast to previous studies that showed no inversion effect for bodies without heads. Overall, our results suggest that heads are used more than bodies for person recognition, but that bodies still provide information to identity and may be holistically processed.

Robbins, R. Coltheart, M. (2010). Heads, bodies and holistic processing in person recognition [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 10(7):680, 680a,, doi:10.1167/10.7.680. [CrossRef]
 R. Robbins was supported by a Macquarie University Division of Psychology & Linguistics Fellowship.

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