Familiarity facilitates feature-based face processing
Recognition of personally familiar faces is remarkably efficient, effortless and robust. We asked if feature-based face processing facilitates detection of familiar faces by testing the effect of face inversion on a visual search task for familiar and unfamiliar faces. Because face inversion disrupts configural and holistic face processing, we hypothesized that inversion would diminish the familiarity advantage to the extent that it is mediated by such processing. Subjects detected personally familiar and stranger target faces in arrays of two, four, or six face images. Subjects showed significant facilitation of personally familiar face detection for both upright and inverted faces. The effect of familiarity on target absent trials, which involved only rejection of unfamiliar face distractors, suggests that familiarity facilitates rejection of unfamiliar distractors as well as detection of familiar targets. The preserved familiarity effect for inverted faces suggests that facilitation of face detection afforded by familiarity reflects mostly feature-based processes.
Castello, Matteo Visconti di Oleggio; Wheeler, Kelsey G.; Cipolli, Carlo; and Gobbini, Ida M., "Familiarity facilitates feature-based face processing" (2017). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 207.