The Neuropsychology of Face Perception and Facial Expression

The Neuropsychology of Face Perception and Facial Expression

The Neuropsychology of Face Perception and Facial Expression

The Neuropsychology of Face Perception and Facial Expression


This book is the first to offer an overview of the increasingly studied field of face perception.

Experimental and pathological dissociation methods are used to understand both the precise cognitive mechanisms and the cerebral functions involved in face perception.

Three main areas of investigation are discussed:

  • face processing after brain damage;
  • lateral differences for face processing in normals;
  • neuropsychological studies on facial expressions.


Obviously, the face is an important stimulus both ecologically and psychosocially. An illustration of this importance can be found in the "face-ism" phenomenon: the head involves only 15-20% of the total body, but people (especially men) are generally depicted by means of an impressive overstatement of their face (see, e.g., Archer, Iritani, Kimes, & Barrios, 1983). The face, as a psychological stimulus, supports two main functions: It is the main source of information for discrimination and identification of people, and it constitutes the structural ground of many nonverbal messages, including information about the emotional state of the person (for a similar view, see Ellis, 1983). Due to the importance of the face, a great number of studies in experimental psychology have been conducted dating back to the very outset of the scientific study of behavior and cognitive events. An overview of the field can be found in the book edited by Davies, Ellis, and Shepherd (1981).

This tradition in experimental psychology, together with early observations concerning defects of face recognition after brain damage and with the increasing development of neuropsychology, has generated, in the last 2 decades, a great number of neuropsychological investigations concerning the visual processing of faces and, more recently, the mechanisms of facial expression and the perception of facial expressions. Classically, and in function of their own viewpoint concerning the relationships between cognitive events and cerebral mechanisms, authors consider that natural (pathological) or experimental dissociations evidenced in neuropsychology can contribute to a better understanding of cerebral mechanisms and of functional differences between cerebral regions (in this "neuroscientific" view, cognitive dissociations represent one way among others of studying the brain) or to a better explanation of cognitive mechanisms permitting . . .

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