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Cognition. 1995 Dec;57(3):217-39.

Categorical effects in the perception of faces.

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Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


These studies suggest categorical perception effects may be much more general than has commonly been believed and can occur in apparently similar ways at dramatically different levels of processing. To test the nature of individual face representations, a linear continuum of "morphed" faces was generated between individual exemplars of familiar faces. In separate categorization, discrimination and "better-likeness" tasks, subjects viewed pairs of faces from these continua. Subjects discriminate most accurately when face-pairs straddle apparent category boundaries; thus individual faces are perceived categorically. A high correlation is found between the familiarity of a face-pair and the magnitude of the categorization effect. Categorical perception therefore is not limited to low-level perceptual continua, but can occur at higher levels and may be acquired through experience as well.

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