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Cognition. 1999 Jan 1;69(3):243-65.

Dr. Angry and Mr. Smile: when categorization flexibly modifies the perception of faces in rapid visual presentations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK.


Are categorization and visual processing independent, with categorization operating late, on an already perceived input, or are they intertwined, with the act of categorization flexibly changing (i.e. cognitively penetrating) the early perception of the stimulus? We examined this issue in three experiments by applying different categorization tasks (gender, expressive or not, which expression and identity) to identical face stimuli. Stimuli were hybrids: they combined a man or a woman with a particular expression at a coarse spatial scale with a face of the opposite gender with a different expression at the fine spatial scale. Results suggested that the categorization task changes the spatial scales preferentially used and perceived for rapid recognition. A perceptual set effect is shown whereby the scale preference of an important categorization (e.g. identity) transfers to resolve other face categorizations (e.g. expressive or not, which expression). Together, the results suggest that categorization can be closely bound to perception.

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