Are Faces Special?

Elinor McKone and Rachel Robbins

in Oxford Handbook of Face Perception

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559053
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Are Faces Special?

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  • Cognitive Psychology


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The question of “Are faces special?” has essentially referred to whether there are unique visual mechanisms for processing identity-related information in faces as compared to other objects. Faces provide unique information about expression, gaze direction, identity, and visual cues to speech. In the literature, however, the debate about whether “faces are special” has referred to the specific question of whether there are special visual processing mechanisms unique to faces, presumably deriving from the social importance of faces and developed either across the course of evolution or the course of childhood. This article provides historical background to the question and presents key theoretical findings and key methodological findings. It reviews literature on an evolved face representation, including studies of newborns, face-deprived monkeys and twins; on configural behavioral processing in object experts; and on neural processing in object novices and object experts including single-unit recording, fMRI, ERPs, TMS, and neuropsychological studies.

Keywords: faces; identity-related information; visual processing mechanism; behavioral processing; neural processing

Article.  14086 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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