The role of Peripheral Vision in the Flashed Face Distortion Effect

Perception. 2019 Jan;48(1):93-101. doi: 10.1177/0301006618817419. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


The flashed face distortion effect is a phenomenon whereby images of faces, presented at 4-5 Hz in the visual periphery, appear distorted. It has been hypothesized that the effect is driven by cortical, rather than retinal, components. Here, we investigated the role of peripheral viewing on the effect. Normally sighted participants viewed the stimulus peripherally, centrally, and centrally with a blurring lens (to match visual acuity in the peripheral location). Participants rated the level of distortion using a Visual Analogue Scale. Although optical defocus did have a significant effect on distortion ratings, peripheral viewing had a much greater effect, despite matched visual acuity. We suggest three potential mechanisms for this finding: increased positional uncertainty in the periphery, reduced deployment of attention to the visual periphery, or the visual crowding effect.

Keywords: flashed face distortion effect; peripheral vision.

MeSH terms

  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Perceptual Distortion / physiology*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Perception / physiology*