Explaining the face-inversion effect: The face-scheme incompatibility (FSI) model

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The face-inversion effect (FIE) can be viewed as being based on two kinds of findings. According to the face(UI) effect, perception and recognition are better for faces presented upright (U) than for faces presented inverted (I). According to the face/object(UI) effect, inversion impairs the processing of faces more than the processing of nonfacial objects (e.g., buildings or cars). Part I of this article focuses on the face(UI) effect and the configural-processing hypothesis, which is considered the most popular explanatory hypothesis of the FIE. In this hypothesis, it is proposed that inversion impairs the processing of configural information (the spatial relations between features) but hardly (if at all) impairs the processing of featural information (e.g., eyes, nose, and mouth). Part II of the article starts from the conclusion reached in part I, that the configural-processing hypothesis has not succeeded in explaining a substantial number of the findings and in resolving certain theoretical problems. The part then goes on to outline a new alternative model, the face-scheme incompatibility (FSI) model, which contends with these theoretical problems, accounts for the configural-processing hypothesis, succeeds in explaining a considerable portion of the empirical findings related to the face(UI) effect, and proposes a relatively new research program on the concept of the face scheme. The basic assumption of the FSI model is that schemes and prototypes are involved in processing a visual stimulus of a face and in transforming it to a "meaning-bearing" face, and that different schemes are involved if the face is presented upright or inverted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-692
Number of pages28
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Face perception
  • Face recognition
  • Face-inversion effect
  • Face-prototype
  • Face-scheme

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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