August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Interaction between social categories in the face composite task
Author Affiliations
  • Wenfeng Chen
    State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Naixin Ren
    State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Andrew Young
    Department of Psychology, University of York
  • Chang Hong Liu
    Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 734. doi:
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      Wenfeng Chen, Naixin Ren, Andrew Young, Chang Hong Liu; Interaction between social categories in the face composite task. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):734. doi:

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

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The face composite task (Young, Hellawell & Hay, 1987) is widely considered to be one of the key techniques for demonstrating holistic perception of faces (Rossion, 2013). In the face composite paradigm, parts from different faces (usually the top and bottom halves) are recombined. The principal criterion for holistic perception is that responses involving the component parts of composites in which the parts are aligned into a face-like configuration are slower and less accurate than responses to the same parts in a misaligned (not face-like) format. This is taken as evidence that seeing a whole face in the aligned condition interferes with perceiving its separate parts. However, it remains unclear to what extent the composite effect reflects the presence of a holistic representation of the composite in the aligned condition, or a problem in selectively attending to the parts of this holistic representation (Richler, Tanaka, Brown & Gauthier, 2008). In most studies, these differing potential contributory factors are indistinguishable. Here, we present a new method involving composites created from top and bottom parts of familiar faces drawn from orthogonal social categories of gender and occupation. This allows us to examine the selective attention hypothesis by measuring whether variation in a task-irrelevant category (for example differences in gender across the parts of the composite when the task is to categorise the occupation of one of the parts) will influence the size of the composite effect. Our findings show that the composite effect can be modulated by task-irrelevant social categories, demonstrating the contribution of problems in selectively attending to constituent parts of the aligned composite stimuli.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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