Perceptual separability of featural and configural information in congenital prosopagnosia Academic Article uri icon


  • The deficit in face recognition in individuals with prosopagnosia has often been attributed to an underlying impairment in holistic processing. Exactly what constitutes holistic processing has remained controversial, however. Here, we compare how configural information and featural information interact during face processing in a group of individuals with congenital prosopagnosia (CP) and matched controls. We adopted Amishav and Kimchi's version of Garner's speeded classification task, in which observers classify upright faces based on configural (intereyes and nose-mouth spacing) or featural (shape of eyes, nose, and mouth) information while the other dimension remains constant or varied randomly. We replicated the finding that normal observers evince symmetric Garner interference-failure to selectively attend to features without being influenced by irrelevant variation in configuration, and vice versa-indicating that featural and configural information are integral in normal face processing. In contrast, the CPs showed no Garner interference: They were able to attend to configural information without interference from irrelevant variation in featural information, and they were able to attend to featural information without interference from irrelevant variation in configural information. The absence of Garner interference in CP provides strong evidence that featural information and configural information are perceptually separable in CP's face processing. These findings indicate that CPs do not perceive faces holistically; rather, they process featural and configural information independently.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012