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The fundamentals of configuration in face perception and discrimination


Face recognition is superior to object recognition, but inversion disproportionately impairs face recognition. This suggests that face perception is fundamentally different from object perception. There are two possible sources of this difference: 1. Faces are perceived as integrated wholes, while objects are processed in a part- based manner. 2. Face recognition relies on the accurate perception of facial feature arrangement, while object recognition relies more on the perception of details. In this dissertation, I examine these claims and explore the extent of the influence of facial feature arrangement on face perception. Chapter 2 assesses our ability to discriminate differences in facial feature arrangement with the goal of understanding the source of the inversion effect on face recognition. Chapter 3 further investigates our ability to discriminate differences in facial feature arrangement, as well as typicality and gender, to determine the degree to which face perception differs from object perception. In addition, I investigated whether adaptation resulting from extended exposure to a specific face, e.g. a male face or compressed face, affects discrimination. Chapter 4 explores the source of illusory changes in perceived face length resulting from adjustments to the feature arrangement. It also examines how these illusory percepts relate to natural distribution of faces. Chapter 5 then applies the results of Chapter 4 to determine how variations in facial feature arrangement and their relation to the population average affect our perception of attractiveness

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