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Simen Hagen, Jim Tanaka; The Role of Attention in Face Perception: Cuing to Spatial Location versus Type of Information. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):628. doi: 10.1167/12.9.628.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Since all faces share the same set of features that are arranged in a common configuration, face perception must depend on our ability to discriminate between subtle differences in the features and the distances between them. To gain insight into the face information that is of greater importance in the discrimination process, we look at the face inversion effect. Recent research has demonstrated that inversion produces a selective impairment of the mouth region. The current study aimed to test the hypothesis that the selective mouth impairment is caused by a lack of attentional resources. Towards this goal, we employed the Face Dimensions Test where the featural and configural properties in the upper and lower regions of a face were parametrically manipulated. Configural information was modified by varying either the distance between the eyes or the distance between the nose and mouth. Featural information was manipulated by either scaling the size of the eyes or mouth features. Discriminability was equated across the four dimensions (eyes-featural, eyes-configural, mouth-featural and mouth-configural) in faces shown in their upright orientations and tested in their inverted orientation. Participants were tested in a same/different task. Whereas focused attention to the mouth region negated the inversion effect for both featural and configural information (Experiment 1), focused attention on type of information did not negate the mouth inversion effect (Experiment 2). The results suggest that attention plays a larger role in the mouth inversion effect. In upright faces, the attentional window covers the entire face allowing us to extract information from both regions of the face. In inverted faces, the attentional window diminishes and attention is focused on the eye region because of its salience. However, attention can be redirected to the mouth region, which allows extraction of information from this region.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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