Unconscious familiarity and local context effects on low-level face processing: A reconstruction hypothesis

Consciousness and Cognition 10 (4):503-523 (2001)
A common view in face recognition research holds that there is a stored representation specific to each known face. It is also posited that semantic or memory-based information cannot influence low-level face processing. The two experiments reported in this article investigate the nature of this representation and the flow of face information processing. Participants had to search for a particular primed face among other faces. In Experiment 1, the search was done in a context where distractors had either a different degree of fame or the same degree of fame. In Experiment 2, the target face was primed either with semantic information or without any information. Both experiments demonstrated that increasing the display set size lengthened face detection time. However, the lengthening was a function of face fame. The search context also had an effect on the slope of the famous face detection. The results are explained in terms of the idea that face representations are reconstructed and that high- and low-level information are integrated into the processing. The integration process is not a conscious one.
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