Revisiting the Role of Spatial Frequencies in the Holistic Processing of Faces

Olivia S. Cheung, Jennifer J. Richler, Thomas J. Palmeri, Isabel Gauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


V. Goffaux and B. Rossion (2006) argued that holistic processing of faces is largely supported by low spatial frequencies (LSFs) but less so by high spatial frequencies (HSFs). We addressed this claim using a sequential matching task with face composites. Observers judged whether the top halves of aligned or misaligned composites were identical. We replicated the V. Goffaux and B. Rossion (2006) results, finding a greater alignment effect in accuracy for LSF compared with HSF faces on same trials. However, there was also a greater bias for responding "same" for HSF compared with LSF faces, indicating that the alignment effects arose from differential response biases. Crucially, comparable congruency effects found for LSF and HSF suggest that LSF and HSF faces are processed equally holistically. These results demonstrate that it is necessary to use measures that take response biases into account in order to fully understand the holistic nature of face processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1327-1336
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • configural processing
  • face perception
  • holistic processing
  • response bias
  • spatial frequencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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