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Perception. 2000;29(8):893-909.

Featural and configurational processes in the recognition of faces of different familiarity.

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School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK.


Previous research suggests that face recognition may involve both configurational and piecemeal (featural) processing. To explore the relationship between these processing modes, we examined the patterns of recognition impairment produced by blurring, inversion, and scrambling, both singly and in various combinations. Two tasks were used: recognition of unfamiliar faces (seen once before) and recognition of highly familiar faces (celebrities). The results provide further support for a configurational-featural distinction. Recognition performance remained well above chance if faces were blurred, scrambled, inverted, or simultaneously inverted and scrambled: each of these manipulations disrupts either configurational or piecemeal processing, leaving the other mode available as a route to recognition. However, blurred/scrambled and blurred/inverted faces were recognised at or near chance levels, presumably because both configurational processing and featural processing were disrupted. Similar patterns of effects were found for both familiar and unfamiliar faces, suggesting that the relationship between configurational and featural processing is qualitatively similar in both cases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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