Categorical perception effects for facial identity in robustly represented familiar and self-faces: the role of configural and featural information

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(4):760-72. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2011.636822. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Categorical perception of robustly represented faces (self, friend) and unfamiliar faces is investigated, and the relative roles of configural and featural information are examined. Participants performed identification and discrimination tasks on morph series containing the self-face and a friend's face (self-Friend 1), two friends' faces (Friend 2-Friend 3), and two unfamiliar faces (Unfamiliar 1-Unfamiliar 2), presented in upright and inverted orientations. For upright faces, categorical perception effects were observed for both familiar morph series but not for the unfamiliar morph series, suggesting that robust representation is a requirement for categorical perception in facial identity. For inverted faces, categorical perception was observed for the self-Friend 1 morph series only. This suggests that categorical perception is tied to configural processing for familiar non-self-faces, but can be observed for self-faces during featural processing-consistent with evidence that self-face representations contain strong configural and featural components. Finally, categorical perception is not enhanced by the presence of the self-face relative to other familiar faces when upright, but shows a trend of being enhanced for self-faces when inverted, adding to the debate on the ways in which robustly represented faces can elicit categorical perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Size Perception
  • Young Adult