Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

In recognizing faces, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts

Date:
March 9, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
How do we recognize a face? To date, most research has answered "holistically": We look at all the features -- eyes, nose, mouth -- simultaneously and, perceiving the relationships among them, gain an advantage over taking in each feature individually. Now a new study overturns this theory.

How do we recognize a face?
Credit: olly / Fotolia

How do we recognize a face? To date, most research has answered "holistically": We look at all the features -- eyes, nose, mouth -- simultaneously and, perceiving the relationships among them, gain an advantage over taking in each feature individually. Now a new study overturns this theory. The researchers -- Jason M. Gold and Patrick J. Mundy of the Indiana University and Bosco S. Tjan of the University of Southern California -- found that people's performance in recognizing a whole face is no better than their performance with each individual feature shown alone. "Surprisingly, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts," says Gold.

Related Articles


The findings appear in the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science.

To predict each participant's best possible performance in putting together the individual features, the investigators used a theoretical model called an "optimal Bayesian integrator" (OBI). The OBI measures someone's success in perceiving a series of sources of information -- in this case, facial features -- and combines them as if they were using the sources together just as they would when perceiving them one by one. Their score recognizing the combination of features (the whole face) should equal the sum of the individual-feature scores. If the whole-face performance exceeds this sum, it implies that the relationships among the features enhanced the information processing -- that is, "holistic" facial recognition exists.

In the first experiment participants were shown fuzzy images of three male and three female faces. Then either one feature -- a left or right eye, nose, or mouth -- or all four in proper face-like relationships appeared on the screen. That image would disappear and, if they saw an eye, all six eyes would appear; if a whole face, six whole faces. The participants clicked on the feature or face they'd just seen. In a second experiment, the whole-face images were superimposed on face-shaped ovals -- in case such context helps holistic recognition, as is often claimed. In both experiments, participants' performance with the whole faces was no better than with the isolated features -- and no better than the OBI -- indicating that the facial features were not processed holistically when shown in combination.

"The OBI offers a clearly defined mathematical framework for studying what historically has been a rather loosely defined set of concepts," says Gold.

The findings may offer promise in understanding the cognitive disorder prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, and could also help in constructing better face-recognition software for security. But the real value, says Gold, is in basic research. "If you want to understand the complexities of the human mind, then understanding the basic processes that underlie how we perceive patterns and objects is an important part of that puzzle."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. M. Gold, P. J. Mundy, B. S. Tjan. The Perception of a Face Is No More Than the Sum of Its Parts. Psychological Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/0956797611427407

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "In recognizing faces, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309140154.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, March 9). In recognizing faces, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309140154.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "In recognizing faces, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309140154.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins