Face recognition and brain potentials: Disruption of configural information reduces the face inversion effect.


The face inversion effect (FIE) refers to the decline in performance in recognizing faces that are inverted compared to the recognition of faces in their normal upright orientation (Yin, 1969). Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects performed an Old/New recognition study on normal and Thatcherised faces presented in upright and inverted orientation. A large difference in processing between normal upright faces and normal inverted faces was observed at occipital-temporal sites about 165 ms following stimulus onset, mainly in the right hemisphere. Thus electrophysiological activity, which corresponds to the previously described N170, had larger amplitude and was delayed for normal inverted faces as compared to normal upright ones. By contrast, the activity for Thatcherised inverted faces was not significantly changed or delayed as compared to Thatcherised upright stimuli. These results combine to show how the effect of face inversion on the N170 is reliably greater when the faces are normal rather than Thatcherised. Finally, these finding complement, at a neural level, our behavioral studies which suggest that the loss of some configural information affects the FIE.

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