Seminar Series

Configural Face Processing: Inputs & Consequences

When the top and bottom halves of different familiar faces are aligned, they cause configural interference in the identification of either half (Young et al., Perception, 1987). This composite face effect demonstrates the importance of configural processing in face perception. In my talk I will empirically evaluate (a) the inputs (spatial frequency and contrast polarity) to configural processes in face perception, (b) retinal versus perceived configuration of the two face halves by dissociating the two using the flash-lag effect (Khurana & Nijhawan, Nature, 1995), and lastly (c) the consequences of selecting the target half of a face on the distracter half by employing a negative priming procedure (Khurana et al., J. Expt. Psych.: Hum. Per. Perf., 2000). Results indicate that configural processing demonstrated by the composite face effect (a) is produced by information carried by high spatial frequencies, (b) does not require retinal alignment, but rather is based on the perceived alignment of the two halves of a face, and (c) entails inhibiting the underlying representation of the entire face (Ellis et al., Brit. J. Psych., 1997).