Configural masking of faces: Evidence for high-level interactions in face perception

Gunter Loffler, Gael E. Gordon, Frances Wilkinson, Deborah Goran, Hugh R. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The perception of a stimulus can be impaired when presented in the context of a masking pattern. To determine the timing and the nature of face processing, the effect of various masks on the discriminability of faces was investigated. Results reveal a strong configural effect: the magnitude of masking depends on the similarity between mask and target. Masking is absent for non-face masks (noise, houses), modest for scrambled and inverted faces and strongest for upright faces, even when they differ in size, gender or viewpoint from the targets. This suggests an extra-striate location for the masking (possibly FFA). Reduced but significant masking for isolated face parts (internal features or head shape) is consistent with holistic computations in face perception. The duration over which a face mask can impair face discrimination (130 ms) is markedly longer than previously assumed and is sufficient for iterative and feedback computations to be part of face processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2287–2297
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • Face perception
  • Masking
  • Temporal dynamics
  • Psychophysics


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