Contributions of individual face features to face discrimination

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Abstract

Faces are highly complex stimuli that contain a host of information. Such complexity poses the following questions: (a) do observers exhibit preferences for specific information? (b) how does sensitivity to individual face parts compare? These questions were addressed by quantifying sensitivity to different face features.
Discrimination thresholds were determined for synthetic faces under the following conditions: (i) ‘full face’: all face features visible; (ii) ‘isolated feature’: single feature presented in isolation; (iii) ‘embedded feature’: all features visible, but only one feature modified.
Mean threshold elevations for isolated features, relative to full-faces, were 0.84x, 1.08, 2.12, 3.34, 4.07 and 4.47 for head-shape, hairline, nose, mouth, eyes and eyebrows respectively. Hence, when two full faces can be discriminated at threshold, the difference between the eyes is about four times less than what is required when discriminating between isolated eyes. In all cases, sensitivity was higher when features were presented in isolation than when they were embedded within a face context (threshold elevations of 0.94x, 1.74, 2.67, 2.90, 5.94 and 9.94).
This reveals a specific pattern of sensitivity to face information. Observers are between two and four times more sensitive to external than internal features. The pattern for internal features (higher sensitivity for the nose, compared to mouth, eyes and eyebrows) is consistent with lower sensitivity for those parts affected by facial dynamics (e.g. facial expressions). That isolated features are easier to discriminate than embedded features supports a holistic face processing mechanism which impedes extraction of information about individual features from full faces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29–39
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Volume137
Early online date12 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

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Eyebrows
Nose
Mouth
Facial Expression
Information Storage and Retrieval
Head

Keywords

  • face features
  • face discrimination
  • psychophysics
  • face perception

Cite this

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title = "Contributions of individual face features to face discrimination",
abstract = "Faces are highly complex stimuli that contain a host of information. Such complexity poses the following questions: (a) do observers exhibit preferences for specific information? (b) how does sensitivity to individual face parts compare? These questions were addressed by quantifying sensitivity to different face features.Discrimination thresholds were determined for synthetic faces under the following conditions: (i) ‘full face’: all face features visible; (ii) ‘isolated feature’: single feature presented in isolation; (iii) ‘embedded feature’: all features visible, but only one feature modified.Mean threshold elevations for isolated features, relative to full-faces, were 0.84x, 1.08, 2.12, 3.34, 4.07 and 4.47 for head-shape, hairline, nose, mouth, eyes and eyebrows respectively. Hence, when two full faces can be discriminated at threshold, the difference between the eyes is about four times less than what is required when discriminating between isolated eyes. In all cases, sensitivity was higher when features were presented in isolation than when they were embedded within a face context (threshold elevations of 0.94x, 1.74, 2.67, 2.90, 5.94 and 9.94).This reveals a specific pattern of sensitivity to face information. Observers are between two and four times more sensitive to external than internal features. The pattern for internal features (higher sensitivity for the nose, compared to mouth, eyes and eyebrows) is consistent with lower sensitivity for those parts affected by facial dynamics (e.g. facial expressions). That isolated features are easier to discriminate than embedded features supports a holistic face processing mechanism which impedes extraction of information about individual features from full faces.",
keywords = "face features, face discrimination, psychophysics, face perception",
author = "Andrew Logan and Gordon, {Gael E.} and Gunter Loffler",
note = "Acceptance email in SAN AAM: version selected by author; 12m embargo",
year = "2017",
month = "8",
doi = "10.1016/j.visres.2017.05.011",
language = "English",
volume = "137",
pages = "29–39",
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Contributions of individual face features to face discrimination. / Logan, Andrew; Gordon, Gael E.; Loffler, Gunter.

In: Vision Research, Vol. 137, 08.2017, p. 29–39.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Contributions of individual face features to face discrimination

AU - Logan, Andrew

AU - Gordon, Gael E.

AU - Loffler, Gunter

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PY - 2017/8

Y1 - 2017/8

N2 - Faces are highly complex stimuli that contain a host of information. Such complexity poses the following questions: (a) do observers exhibit preferences for specific information? (b) how does sensitivity to individual face parts compare? These questions were addressed by quantifying sensitivity to different face features.Discrimination thresholds were determined for synthetic faces under the following conditions: (i) ‘full face’: all face features visible; (ii) ‘isolated feature’: single feature presented in isolation; (iii) ‘embedded feature’: all features visible, but only one feature modified.Mean threshold elevations for isolated features, relative to full-faces, were 0.84x, 1.08, 2.12, 3.34, 4.07 and 4.47 for head-shape, hairline, nose, mouth, eyes and eyebrows respectively. Hence, when two full faces can be discriminated at threshold, the difference between the eyes is about four times less than what is required when discriminating between isolated eyes. In all cases, sensitivity was higher when features were presented in isolation than when they were embedded within a face context (threshold elevations of 0.94x, 1.74, 2.67, 2.90, 5.94 and 9.94).This reveals a specific pattern of sensitivity to face information. Observers are between two and four times more sensitive to external than internal features. The pattern for internal features (higher sensitivity for the nose, compared to mouth, eyes and eyebrows) is consistent with lower sensitivity for those parts affected by facial dynamics (e.g. facial expressions). That isolated features are easier to discriminate than embedded features supports a holistic face processing mechanism which impedes extraction of information about individual features from full faces.

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