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Perception. 2005;34(1):77-86.

The respective role of low and high spatial frequencies in supporting configural and featural processing of faces.

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Face Categorization Laboratory and Neurophysiology Laboratory, University of Louvain, Place du Cardinal Mercier 10, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


One distinctive feature of processing faces, as compared to other categories, is thought to be the large dependence on configural cues such as the metric relations among features. To test the role of low spatial frequencies (LSFs) and high spatial frequencies (HSFs) in configural and featural processing, subjects were presented with triplets of faces that were filtered to preserve either LSFs (below 8 cycles per face width), HSFs (above 32 cycles per face width), or the full frequency spectrum. They were asked to match one of two probe faces to a target face. The distractor probe face differed from the target either configurally, featurally, or both featurally and configurally. When the difference was at the configural level, performance was better with LSF faces than with HSF faces. In contrast, with a featural difference, a strong performance advantage was found for HSF faces as compared to LSF faces. These results support the dominant role that LSFs play in the configural processing of faces, whereas featural processing is largely dependent on HSFs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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