Flexible face processing: Holistic processing of facial identity is modulated by task-irrelevant facial expression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Holistic processing is a hallmark of face perception and has been observed separately for facial identity and expression. While the identity of a face remains constant regardless of any changes in facial expressions, to what extent is holistic processing of facial identity affected by task-irrelevant facial expressions? If holistic processing is flexible and integrates both identity and expression information, the magnitude of holistic processing of facial identity may be systematically modulated by different facial expressions, due to either visual or emotional differences among the expressions. In Experiment 1, participants matched the identities of target halves of two sequentially presented face composites, with both composites showing either positive (happy) or negative (angry) expressions. The presentation duration for the test composite was either short (200 ms) or long (until a response). With a short presentation duration, the magnitude of holistic processing of identity for happy and angry composites was comparable. In contrast, with a long presentation duration, holistic processing of identity was reduced for angry compared with happy face composites. Experiment 2 replicated the results and showed reduced holistic processing of identity for face composites with either angry or neutral expressions, compared with happy expressions, given a long presentation duration. Because the modulation of facial expressions on holistic processing of facial identity was observed with long, but not short, presentation durations, these results suggest that such influence is unlikely solely due to visual differences, but may instead arise from cognitive evaluation of the emotions conveyed by facial expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalVision research
Volume178
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Composite task
  • Face perception
  • Facial expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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