Perceptibility of schematic face stimuli: Evidence for a perceptual Gestalt

Donald Homa, Bram Haver, Terrence Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


The perceptibility of face, scrambled face, and single-feature stimuli was investigated in three experiments. Stimuli were presented tachistoscopically, followed by a visual noise mask and a forced-choice test of one of three features (eyes, nose, and mouth). In Experiment I, two processing strategies which have been proposed for word perception (involving expectancy and redundancy) were investigated for the stimuli employed here. In Experiments II and III, experimentally induced familiarity was studied for its effect on recognition and perception, and an immediate and delayed perceptual test was employed. Across all three experiments, perception of single-feature and face stimuli were consistently superior to scrambled faces; in Experiment III, differences between single features and faces were eliminated. The effects of perceptual expectancy, internal feature redundancy, familiarity, guessing biases, etc., were shown to be insufficient to account for the superiority of face to scrambled face stimuli. It was argued that the perceptibility of nonredundant features are enhanced when those features are aligned in a well-defined form class. The view that familiarity operates directly on recognitive processes but indirectly on perceptual ones was discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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