Holistic person processing: Faces With Bodies Tell the Whole Story

Hillel Aviezer, Yaacov Trope, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Faces and bodies are typically encountered simultaneously, yet little research has explored the visualprocessing of the full person. Specifically, it is unknown whether the face and body are perceived asdistinct components or as an integrated, gestalt-like unit. To examine this question, we investigatedwhether emotional face-body composites are processed in a holistic-like manner by using a variant ofthe composite face task, a measure of holistic processing. Participants judged facial expressionscombined with emotionally congruent or incongruent bodies that have been shown to influence therecognition of emotion from the face. Critically, the faces were either aligned with the body in a naturalposition or misaligned in a manner that breaks the ecological person form. Converging data from 3experiments confirm that breaking the person form reduces the facilitating influence of congruent bodycontext as well as the impeding influence of incongruent body context on the recognition of emotion fromthe face. These results show that faces and bodies are processed as a single unit and support the notionof a composite person effect analogous to the classic effect described for faces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-37
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Composite effect
  • Context effects
  • Emotion perception
  • Facial and body expressions
  • Holistic perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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