Houlihan M, Fraser I & Welling LLM (2005). Face Perception and Event-related Potentials. Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. July 2005.

It has been known for quite some time that the upper regions of the face are more salient than the lower. This has been referred to as, "the facial feature hierarchy". While this effect has been replicated in many studies using a variety of methods, an adequate explanation of the cause has not been found. Event-related potentials were recorded during a paired stimulus recognition task to examine the facial feature hierarchy. Each trial involved sequential presentation of two face stimuli. The second face was the same as the previous face on 25% of the trials. On the remaining trials, one of three features (eyes, nose, or mouth) was substituted with the same feature from a different face. As in previous studies, RTs were shorter for "same" rather than "different" responses. RTs were longest for substitutions of the nose, followed by the mouth and, lastly, the eyes. RTs and error analyses replicate previous studies of the facial feature hierarchy. Discussion of ERP results will focus on the N170, as a measure of the structural encoding process of faces. In addition, semantic processing of face information will be discussed in reference to a negative wave peaking around 300 ms.

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