The Effects of Face Inversion on Perceiving- and Sensing-Based Change Detection

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Face perception is more difficult when faces are inverted compared to when they are upright. However, it is not known whether face inversion disrupts the ability to make perceiving-based discriminations (i.e., the ability to identify a specific feature change), or sensing-based discriminations (i.e., the ability to detect there was a change without the ability to identify what changed). In the current study, we used confidence-based receiver operating characteristics (ROCs) in a change detection test to examine the effect of face inversion on perceiving and sensing. In Experiment 1, face inversion led to a reduction in the probability of perceiving but did not impact sensing-based discriminations. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results, and verified that the findings based on ROC estimates paralleled participants’ phenomenological experiences of perceiving and sensing. Furthermore, the perceiving-based face inversion effect was found to reflect a reduction in the ability to accurately report specific feature changes. These findings indicate that face inversion does not reduce the ability to sense there was a change in the absence of identification, but rather it reduces the ability to consciously identify specific characteristics of faces in service of perceiving-based discriminations. In addition, they suggest that sensing responds to global differences across the visual image, rather than to changes in holistic processing of the visual input. These results further our understanding of the face inversion effect and clarify the nature of the processes underlying visual perception.

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