Revisiting the role of spatial frequencies in the holistic processing of faces

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2008 Dec;34(6):1327-36. doi: 10.1037/a0011752.


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.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention*
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult