The Hows and Whys of Face Processing: Level of Construal Influences the Holistic Processing of Human Faces

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Face recognition and identification are optimized by holistic processing. Various visual-spatial manipulations appear to have transfer effects on holistic face processing. The present experiment tests the effects of a semantic manipulation—of construal level—on holistic processing as measured by composite congruency effects. Participants completed two blocks of trials. The first served as a baseline, whereas the second included a manipulation of construal level. High-level construal resulted in stronger congruency effects, indicative of greater holistic processing (relative to baseline and to low-level construal). These results have implications for conceptualizations of both construal level and holistic processing.

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