Features are also important: contributions of featural and configural processing to face recognition

Psychol Sci. 2000 Sep;11(5):429-33. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00283.


It has been suggested that face recognition is primarily based on configural information, with featural information playing little or no role. We investigated this idea by comparing the prototype effect for face prototypes that emphasized either featural or configural processing. In Experiment 1, participants showed a tendency to commit false alarms in response to nonstudied prototypes, and this tendency was equivalent for featural and configural prototypes. Experiment 2 replicated this finding, and provided support for the assumption that the two types of prototypes differed in terms of featural and configural processing: Face inversion eliminated the prototype effect for configural prototypes but not for featural prototypes. These results suggest that both featural and configural processing make important contributions to face recognition, and that their effects are dissociable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Visual Perception*