Configurational information in face perception

Perception. 1987;16(6):747-59. doi: 10.1068/p160747.


A new facial composites technique is demonstrated, in which photographs of the top and bottom halves of different familiar faces fuse to form unfamiliar faces when aligned with each other. The perception of a novel configuration in such composite stimuli is sufficiently convincing to interfere with identification of the constituent parts (experiment 1), but this effect disappears when stimuli are inverted (experiment 2). Difficulty in identifying the parts of upright composites is found even for stimuli made from parts of unfamiliar faces that have only ever been encountered as face fragments (experiment 3). An equivalent effect is found for composites made from internal and external facial features of well-known people (experiment 4). These findings demonstrate the importance of configurational information in face perception, and that configurations are only properly perceived in upright faces.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Face
  • Female
  • Form Perception*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Reaction Time