Effects of configural processing on the perceptual spatial resolution for face features Academic Article uri icon


  • Configural processing governs human perception across various domains, including face perception. An established marker of configural face perception is the face inversion effect, in which performance is typically better for upright compared to inverted faces. In two experiments, we tested whether configural processing could influence basic visual abilities such as perceptual spatial resolution (i.e., the ability to detect spatial visual changes). Face-related perceptual spatial resolution was assessed by measuring the just noticeable difference (JND) to subtle positional changes between specific features in upright and inverted faces. The results revealed robust inversion effect for spatial sensitivity to configural-based changes, such as the distance between the mouth and the nose, or the distance between the eyes and the nose. Critically, spatial resolution for face features within the region of the eyes (e.g., the interocular distance between the eyes) was not affected by inversion, suggesting that the eye region operates as a separate 'gestalt' unit which is relatively immune to manipulations that would normally hamper configural processing. Together these findings suggest that face orientation modulates fundamental psychophysical abilities including spatial resolution. Furthermore, they indicate that classic psychophysical methods can be used as a valid measure of configural face processing. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015

published in