The face interference effect: A new perspective on the automaticity of holistic face processing

David Cowan (2010). The face interference effect: A new perspective on the automaticity of holistic face processing Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author David Cowan
Thesis Title The face interference effect: A new perspective on the automaticity of holistic face processing
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Roger Remington
Total pages 69
Abstract/Summary Prior research suggests that people process upright faces holistically as an independent image, but face inversion impairs this ability, altering face processing to a featural level. Featural face processing is slower as the features must be independently integrated to form the image of the face. The aim of the current project was to investigate whether evidence exists to suggest that the holistic account of face processing occurs as an automatic function. In two experiments participants were asked to judge only the mouthline direction of upright and inverted schematic faces. This process was designed to induce featural processing to occur for both upright and inverted faces. Therefore if judgements of mouthline direction are impaired for inverted faces, this would suggest that holistic processing of upright faces was automatic. In line with this rationale and drawing on previous findings related to the holistic account, the primary hypothesis was that participants would be unable to extract information about individual features from an upright normally arranged schematic face. Judgment performance would be impaired in inverted faces relative to upright faces. Response-times for judging mouthline direction were recorded for Experiment 1 and the novel approach of measuring dwell-times via infra-red eye tracking was added for Experiment 2. Dwell-times were measured to gauge how long people looked at face-like schematic stimuli whilst making judgements. Results were compared with control measurements recorded for scrambled nonface schematic stimuli containing the same mouthline directions. Findings support the primary hypothesis, suggesting that automatic feature integration is occurring for normally configured upright faces. These findings add support for the holistic face processing theory and contribute the important idea that holistic processing is automatic.

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Created: Tue, 05 Apr 2011, 14:46:24 EST by Lucy O'Brien on behalf of School of Psychology