More Than Meets the Eye: Split-Second Social Perception

Jonathan B. Freeman, Kerri L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Recent research suggests that visual perception of social categories is shaped not only by facial features but also by higher-order social cognitive processes (e.g., stereotypes, attitudes, goals). Building on neural computational models of social perception, we outline a perspective of how multiple bottom-up visual cues are flexibly integrated with a range of top-down processes to form perceptions, and we identify a set of key brain regions involved. During this integration, ‘hidden’ social category activations are often triggered which temporarily impact perception without manifesting in explicit perceptual judgments. Importantly, these hidden impacts and other aspects of the perceptual process predict downstream social consequences – from politicians’ electoral success to several evaluative biases – independently of the outcomes of that process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-374
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016


  • computational models
  • face processing
  • neuroimaging
  • person perception
  • stereotypes
  • top-down effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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