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Vision Res. 2018 Mar 22. pii: S0042-6989(18)30038-5. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2017.12.006. [Epub ahead of print]

External and internal facial features modulate processing of vertical but not horizontal spatial relations.

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Department of Psychology, Methods Section, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, Methods Section, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.
Department of Psychology, Section for Developmental and Educational Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.


Some years ago an asymmetry was reported for the inversion effect for horizontal (H) and vertical (V) relational face manipulations (Goffaux & Rossion, 2007). Subsequent research examined whether a specific disruption of long-range relations underlies the H/V inversion asymmetry (Sekunova & Barton, 2008). Here, we tested how detection of changes in interocular distance (H) and eye height (V) depends on cardinal internal features and external feature surround. Results replicated the H/V inversion asymmetry. Moreover, we found very different face cue dependencies for both change types. Performance and inversion effects did not depend on the presence of other face cues for detecting H changes. In contrast, accuracy for detecting V changes strongly depended on internal and external features, showing cumulative improvement when more cues were added. Inversion effects were generally large, and larger with external feature surround. The cue independence in detecting H relational changes indicates specialized local processing tightly tuned to the eyes region, while the strong cue dependency in detecting V relational changes indicates a global mechanism of cue integration across different face regions. These findings suggest that the H/V asymmetry of the inversion effect rests on an H/V anisotropy of face cue dependency, since only the global V mechanism suffers from disruption of cue integration as the major effect of face inversion.


Attentional window; Face cue integration; Horizontal and vertical information; Inversion effect; Spatial relations

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