Holistic face perception

Galia Avidan, Marlene Behrmann, Ruth Kimchi, Jennifer J Richler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


There remains ongoing debate regarding the mechanisms that give rise to rapid and accurate face recognition. We review findings from studies that examine face perception in normal observers and in individuals with face recognition impairments (‘prosopagnosia’) that shed light on these underlying mechanisms. Based on these results and on additional evidence from the literature, we argue that holistic face processing is not necessarily based on template-like, undifferentiated representations. Rather, we suggest that holistic processing can be accomplished by alternative mechanisms such as an automatic attentional strategy and/or that it can emerge from the interactive processing of face configuration and features. We also raise the possibility that similar mechanisms may be at play in other domains of visual processing, as well.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Perceptual Organization
EditorsJ. Wagemans
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Print)0199686858, 9780199686858
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameOxford Library of Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press


  • configural processing
  • face recognition
  • featural processing
  • holistic processing
  • neuropsychology
  • perception
  • prosopagnosia
  • psychology
  • vision


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