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Perception. 2000;29(8):937-42.

Thatcher illusion: dependence on angle of rotation.

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Institute of Biophysics and Radiation Biology, Brain Research Unit, University of Freiburg, Hansastrasse 9, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


The expression of a face with its eyes and mouth inverted changes from 'pleasant' to 'grotesque' as the stimulus is rotated from 180 degrees to 0 degree (Thatcher illusion). We determined the angular orientation at which this change occurred for three manipulated faces. Mean thresholds for eighteen observers were found to lie between 94 degrees and 100 degrees relative to the vertical with an average overlap of about 15 degrees between an observer's ascending and descending thresholds. The sudden nature and relatively narrow zone of the changeover suggest a neuronal step-tuning of hypothetical face cells in the human brain, underlying the holistic ('grotesque') versus componential ('pleasant') processing of upright versus upside-down faces. Findings are discussed within the framework of cognitive, neuroimaging, and single-cell studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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