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Perception. 2007;36(11):1635-45.

Faces as objects of non-expertise: processing of thatcherised faces in congenital prosopagnosia.

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Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Liebiggasse 5, A 1010 Vienna, Austria.


Congenital prosopagnosia (cPA) is a severe disorder in recognising familiar faces, a human characteristic that is presumably innate, without any macro-spatial brain anomalies. Following the idea that cPA is based on deficits of configural face processing, we used a speeded grotesqueness decision task with thatcherised faces, since the Thatcher illusion can serve as a test of configural disruption (Lewis and Johnston, 1997 Perception 26 225-227). The time needed to report the grotesqueness of a face in relation to orientation showed dissociate patterns between a group of fourteen people with cPA and a group of matched controls: whereas the RTs of controls followed a strong sigmoid function depending on rotation from the upright orientation, the RTs of people with cPA showed a much weaker sigmoid trend approaching a linear function. The latter result is interpreted as a diagnostic sign of impaired configural processing, being the primary cause of the absence of 'face expertise' in prosopagnosia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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