August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Clinical bias in holistic face perception
Author Affiliations
  • Andreas Fried
    Department of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
  • Malte Persike
    Department of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
  • Günter Meinhardt
    Department of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 640. doi:
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      Andreas Fried, Malte Persike, Günter Meinhardt; Clinical bias in holistic face perception. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):640. doi:

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

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Latest research repeatedly showed that face processing significantly differs from processing of other objects. Instead of being processed on a purely featural basis, processing of faces seems to rely considerably on configural properties (e.g., Farah, Wilson, Drain, & Tanaka (1998). What is "special" about face perception? Psychological Review, 105, 482-498.). Also, it was recently found that especially vertical relationships of facial features are vulnerable to inversion (Goffaux, 2007), again suggesting that configural information in faces is crucial in face perception. Accumulating evidence suggests that clinical populations exhibit strong impairments in their face perception capacity, which may be linked directly to the different processing regimes of featural and configural facial information. In this study we aimed to show that social phobics (n=15) and depressive patients (n=25) differ from a normal control group (n=30) by using experimental designs with locally and globally manipulated (expt. 1) as well as contextually modulated (expt. 2) faces. Experiment 1 was designed as a face identity discrimination task to measure perceived differences between two faces that have been manipulated in one of three possible variables (exchanged eyes, exchanged eyes and mouth and vertical eye movement in second picture). The discrimination task in experiment 2 focused on evaluation of part-based or featural replacements within faces in the upper or lower part of a face with the corresponding face part as a present distractor. Congruent and incongruent samples were presented in both upper and lower part of each face. Results indicate that clinical groups, particularly depressive patients, generally perform on a weaker level than healthy controls. Also they are less sensitive for global face manipulations and show greater performance bias in incongruent face context. These results suggest a global cognitive impairment through psychological and mental illnesses and primarily for depressive patients a differential impairment of holistic face processing.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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