General holistic impairment in congenital prosopagnosia: Evidence from Garner's speeded-classification task Academic Article uri icon


  • Congenital prosopagnosia (CP), a lifelong impairment in face processing in the absence of brain damage, is often ascribed to impairment in holistic processing. It is still debated whether such difficulties are restricted to faces or whether they can also be observed for nonfacial stimuli. Here, we investigate this issue by examining CP individuals and their controls on two variations of the Garner speeded classification task tailored to assess holistic processing of nonfacial stimuli. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to judge the width of visually presented rectangles while ignoring their irrelevant height, or to judge changes in width while height remained constant. Critically, while controls exhibited the expected Garner interference, no such interference was observed for the CPs, indicating impaired holistic processing of integral, nonfacial shape dimensions. Experiment 2, utilized the same Garner paradigm, but here participants were asked to judge integral dimensions that are unrelated to shape (colour). Importantly, both CPs and controls exhibited the same level of Garner interference, indicating intact integral processing of colour dimensions. This dissociation between the performance on the two Garner tasks indicates that CPs do not exhibit a general local processing bias or impaired integration of any perceptual dimensions, but rather a deficit that is restricted to tasks requiring holistic integral perception of shape dimensions. Taken together, these results provide evidence for the existence of a general impairment in holistic shape perception in CP, which may be related to the mechanisms underlying this disorder.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013