Features, Configuration, and Holistic Face Processing

James W. Tanaka and Iris Gordon

in Oxford Handbook of Face Perception

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

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Features, Configuration, and Holistic Face Processing

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  • Cognitive Psychology


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This article explores the concept of recognizing a face holistically and examines the experimental paradigms that serve as the “gold standards” for holistic perception. It discusses the contribution of featural and configural information to the holistic process and the controversy surrounding these often misunderstood concepts. It claims that the recruitment of holistic processes is what distinguishes faces from most types of object recognition. The discussion focuses on the kind of featural and configural information that is impaired in an inverted face as well as the information that is spared. Finally, the article considers the concept of a “perceptual field” that allows for the preservation of both featural and configural information within a restricted spatial region of an inverted face.

Keywords: holistic process; configural information; object recognition; perceptual field; face processing

Article.  8804 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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