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Rezlescu, C. . Social perception of faces: Neuropsychological and behavioural investigations. 2013.

Abstract: This thesis concerns theoretical and empirical issues in face processing and facial trait perception. First, I present evidence that challenges two hypotheses proposed as alternatives to face specificity, namely the individuation and the expertise hypotheses. Inconsistent with the individuation hypothesis, an extensive investigation of a new case of acquired prosopagnosia (Herschel) revealed normal exemplar recognition memory for a wide variety of objects, and normal ability to discriminate between highly similar items within a novel object category. Inconsistent with the expertise hypothesis, Herschel and Florence, a second acquired prosopagnosic, showed normal learning profiles and response times putative of successful expertise acquisition in an eight-day training procedure with novel objects, demonstrating that faces are processed by specialised mechanisms not used for objects-of-expertise. Second, testing four patients with acquired prosopagnosia, I demonstrate that perceptual mechanisms underlying trait judgments are dissociable from those implicated in recognising identity. Furthermore, I show that perception of facial aggressiveness does not depend on mechanisms for facial sex recognition, and that normal facial trustworthiness judgments are likely to occur without intact recognition of facial expressions, therefore challenging the overgeneralisation theory in facial trait perception. Third, I present a series of experiments with healthy participants to characterise various properties of facial trait perception. Specifically, I examine: i) the role of facial width-to-height ratio in perceived trustworthiness; ii) the accuracy of facial trustworthiness judgments; iii) the interaction between facial trustworthiness and reputation; and iv) the interaction between face impressions and voice impressions. Overall, the findings of the present thesis have important implications for the nature of the mechanisms underlying facial identity processing, the organisation of facial trait perception and its relationship to other face perception abilities, as well as the physical, ecological, and multimodal aspects of facial trait perception.

Keywords: face perception; prosopagnosia; trait impressions

Posted by Constantin Rezlescu


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