The Role of External Features in Face Recognition with Central Vision Loss

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We evaluated how the performance of recognizing familiar face images depends on the internal (eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth) and external face features (chin, outline of face, hairline) in individuals with central vision loss.


In experiment 1, we measured eye movements for four observers with central vision loss to determine whether they fixated more often on the internal or the external features of face images while attempting to recognize the images. We then measured the accuracy for recognizing face images that contained only the internal, only the external, or both internal and external features (experiment 2) and for hybrid images where the internal and external features came from two different source images (experiment 3) for five observers with central vision loss and four age-matched control observers.


When recognizing familiar face images, approximately 40% of the fixations of observers with central vision loss was centered on the external features of faces. The recognition accuracy was higher for images containing only external features (66.8 ± 3.3% correct) than for images containing only internal features (35.8 ± 15.0%), a finding contradicting that of control observers. For hybrid face images, observers with central vision loss responded more accurately to the external features (50.4 ± 17.8%) than to the internal features (9.3 ± 4.9%), whereas control observers did not show the same bias toward responding to the external features.


Contrary to people with normal vision who rely more on the internal features of face images for recognizing familiar faces, individuals with central vision loss show a higher dependence on using external features of face images.

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