Featural processing in face preferences

Halberstadt, J., Goldstone, R. L., & Levine, G. M. (2003). Featural Processing in Face Preferences.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology39, 270-278.

Two experiments examined how practice and time pressure influence holistic processing, defined as the relative importance of feature interactions, in a face preference task.  Participants rated 32 cartoon faces that varied along five dichotomous features (Experiment 1) or 27 realistic morphed faces that varied along three trichotomous dimensions (Experiment 2), under high and low time pressure (operationalized as a short versus long stimulus presentation time), over a series of experimental blocks. In both experiments, the overall importance of facial features, but not of feature interactions, increased over blocks and, in one condition of Experiment 1, under high versus low time pressure.  Analyses of idiosyncratic importance indicated that the feature effects were due to the increasing importance of participants’ idiosyncratically most influential features.  Functional differences between face preferences and face recognition are offered to explain and predict when facial features will be processed independently versus holistically.

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