Your Eyes Only? A Test of Interactive Influence in the Processing of Facial Features

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The holistic hypothesis in face processing was tested in 3 experiments. Holistic processing was conceptualized as interactive influence of facial features on the perceptual representation of faces. In Experiment 1, 3 facial features (eye distance, width of nose, size of mouth) were varied on 3 values per feature. Photographs and blurred versions were used. Participants assigned each stimulus face to 1 of 2 target faces according to similarity. The data were evaluated by the logit model that provides a direct test of interactive influence of the features on participants' performance. The interactive-processing hypothesis was not confirmed. The results were replicated in Experiment 2, in which 2 features with 5 values each were used and data of individual participants were evaluated, and in Experiment 3, in which a reduced presentation time of 250 ms was used. It is concluded that facial features are processed and represented independently.

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