Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Mutual Information, Perceptual Independence, and Holistic Face Perception

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Mutual Information, Perceptual Independence, and Holistic Face Perception

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 May 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract The concept of perceptual independence is ubiquitous in psychology. It addresses the question of whether two (or more) dimensions are perceived independently. Several authors have proposed perceptual independence (or its lack thereof) as a viable measure of holistic face perception (Loftus, Oberg, & Dillon, Psychological Review 111:835-863, 2004; Wenger & Ingvalson, Learning, Memory, and Cognition 28:872-892, 2002). According to this notion, the processing of facial features occurs in an interactive manner. Here, I examine this idea from the perspective of two theories of perceptual independence: the multivariate uncertainty analysis (MUA; Garner & Morton, Definitions, models, and experimental paradigms. Psychological Bulletin 72:233-259, 1969), and the general recognition theory (GRT; Ashby & Townsend, Psychological Review 93:154-179, 1986). The goals of the study were to (1) introduce the MUA, (2) examine various possible relations between MUA and GRT using numerical simulations, and (3) apply the MUA to two consensual markers of holistic face perception-recognition of facial features (Farah, Wilson, Drain, & Tanaka, Psychological Review 105:482-498, 1998) and the composite face effect (Young, Hellawell, & Hay, Perception 16:747-759, 1987). The results suggest that facial holism is generated by violations of several types of perceptual independence. They highlight the important theoretical role played by converging operations in the study of holistic face perception.

Keywords Perceptual organization · Face perception Face recognition

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

When presented with a face, one often gets the impression that the eyes, nose, and mouth coalesce into a unified whole. The facial features are glued together so that observers find it difficult to dissect the face into its constituent components. It is this experience that makes faces a popular textbook case of holistic or Gestalt perception. The example illustrates the notion that interactions or interdependencies among sources of information (e.g., facial features) govern perception (Diamond & Carey, 1986; Farah, Wilson, Drain, & Tanaka, 1998; Galton, 1879; Young, Hellawell, & Hay, 1987).

The idea that holistic processing reflects deviations from some type of independence is shared by many face perception models. For instance, facial holism has been defined in terms of violations of: statistical independence (Ellison & Massaro, 1997; Loftus, Oberg, & Dillon, 2004; Macho & Leder, 1998), geometrical independence (Sergent, 1984; Tversky & Krantz, 1969), independence in processing rate (Bradshaw & Wallace, 1971; Wenger & Townsend, 2006), and perceptual independence and separability (Thomas, 2001a; Wenger & Ingvalson, 2002). Some of these studies have recorded violations of independence, whereas others detected no violations. This apparent inconsistency implies that independence is not a unitary concept and that the many phenomena that go under the name of "holistic face perception" might be governed not by one, but by various mechanisms.

The present work examined the notion of holistic face perception from the view point of perceptual independence models (Ashby & Townsend, 1986; Garner & Morton, 1969). The article is structured as follows. In the first section, several conceptual distinctions are made regarding the theoretical construct of perceptual independence. In a second section, two theories of perceptual independence are presented. In a third part, holistic face perception is couched in the different language of each of these theories. In a fourth section, simulations are performed in order to explore possible relations between the two theories. In a fifth and final section, one of the theories is applied to two classical phenomena of holistic face perception.

Perceptual independence

The pioneering theoretical work on perceptual independence has been accomplished by Shepard (1964), Garner (1974), and Townsend (Ashby & Townsend, 1986; Townsend, Hu, & Evans, 1984; Townsend & SpencerSmith, 2004). …

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