Holistic processing for left–right composite faces in Chinese and Caucasian observers

Tina T. LIU, William G. HAYWARD, Matt OXNER, Marlene BEHRMANN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In Caucasian individuals, holistic processing and face recognition is lateralized to the right hemisphere, whereas part-based processing and word recognition is lateralized to the left hemisphere. Whether this hemispheric complementarity holds more generally is unclear. We compare the hemispheric basis of holistic processing of faces in Caucasian and Chinese observers (who, as readers of logographic script, may have different hemispheric organization). Participants made same/different judgements about the left/right halves of two sequentially presented composite faces (comprised of the left half of one face and the right half of another face) when the halves were aligned or were misaligned. There was a larger congruency effect for aligned than misaligned faces, reflecting significant holistic processing, and this was equivalent for face halves judged in the right and left visual fields and for Caucasian and Chinese observers. This same result was replicated in a second study with Caucasian observers, in which we presented the cue simultaneous with the study face, rather than simultaneous with the test face. These findings reflect equal participation of both hemispheres in holistic face perception and suggest that orthographic experience does not necessarily affect the hemispheric basis of holistic processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1050-1071
Number of pages22
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number8
Early online date27 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Please address all correspondence to Marlene Behrmann, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. E-mail: [email protected] research was supported by the National Science Foundation to MB and DP [grant number BCS0923763], Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center [grant number SBE0542013; G. Cottrell: Co-PI: M. Behrmann], and Hong Kong Research Grants Council [grant number HKU744512H] to WGH; and Ungerleider Carnegie Prize Fellowship to TTL. The authors thank Jim Tanaka for providing the stimuli used to create the composite faces and Ryan Egan for processing the Caucasian face stimuli and helping with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Taylor & Francis.


  • Composite face effect
  • Face lateralization
  • Holistic processing
  • Lateralization of language processing
  • Other race effect


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