Holistic processing of face configurations and components

William G. HAYWARD*, Kate CROOKES, Ming Hon CHU, Simone K. FAVELLE, Gillian RHODES

*Corresponding author for this work

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

16 Citations (Scopus)


Although many researchers agree that faces are processed holistically, we know relatively little about what information holistic processing captures from a face. Most studies that assess the nature of holistic processing do so with changes to the face affecting many different aspects of face information (e.g., different identities). Does holistic processing affect every aspect of a face? We used the composite task, a common means of examining the strength of holistic processing, with participants making same- different judgments about configuration changes or component changes to 1 portion of a face. Configuration changes involved changes in spatial position of the eyes, whereas component changes involved lightening or darkening the eyebrows. Composites were either aligned or misaligned, and were presented either upright or inverted. Both configuration judgments and component judgments showed evidence of holistic processing, and in both cases it was strongest for upright face composites. These results suggest that holistic processing captures a broad range of information about the face, including both configuration-based and component-based information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1482-1489
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Composite task
  • Face perception
  • Face recognition
  • Holistic processing


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