The Department of Psychology presents Andrew D. Engell, PhD, Harvey F. Lodish Development Professor of Natural Science and assistant professor of psychology at Kenyon College. He will give a lecture, "About face: Revisiting the 'specialness' of faces in the visual system."
Face perception, including successful detection and identity recognition, is a vital part of human social interactions. Studies of the cognitive and neural processes subserving visual perception have indicated that recognition of faces relies on qualitatively different neural and perceptual processes than recognition of non-face objects.
In this talk, I will discuss two lines of research that investigate two such proposed differences; holistic perception and non-conscious detection. Holistic perception is the notion that faces are perceived as a unitary whole (holistic), whereas objects are perceived as an assembly of parts (feature-based).
Recent evidence has suggested that this difference might depend on the familiarity of the perceived face (e.g., a sibling vs. a stranger on the street). I will discuss a series of event-related potential (ERP) studies that investigated the necessity of holistic perception for recognition of familiar faces. I will then shift my focus to the non-conscious detection and processing of faces.
The social and evolutionary importance of faces has led to the proposal that they are detected by the visual system even when the viewer is not consciously aware of their presence. Though this is an intuitively appealing notion, empirical support is equivocal. I will discuss a series of electroencephalography (EEG) and behavior studies that investigated whether faces are indeed privileged when presented non-consciously and, if so, what accounts for that privileged status.
Question and answer session is prior to the lecture at 3:30 p.m. in Severance Hall, Room 128.