Mutual information, perceptual independence, and holistic face perception

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The concept of perceptual independence is ubiquitous in psychology. It addresses the question of whether two (or more) dimensions are perceived independently. Several authors have proposed perceptual independence (or its lack thereof) as a viable measure of holistic face perception (Loftus, Oberg, & Dillon, Psychological Review 111:835-863, 2004; Wenger & Ingvalson, Learning, Memory, and Cognition 28:872-892, 2002). According to this notion, the processing of facial features occurs in an interactive manner. Here, I examine this idea from the perspective of two theories of perceptual independence: the multivariate uncertainty analysis (MUA; Garner & Morton, Definitions, models, and experimental paradigms. Psychological Bulletin 72:233-259, 1969), and the general recognition theory (GRT; Ashby & Townsend, Psychological Review 93:154-179, 1986). The goals of the study were to (1) introduce the MUA, (2) examine various possible relations between MUA and GRT using numerical simulations, and (3) apply the MUA to two consensual markers of holistic face perception-recognition of facial features (Farah, Wilson, Drain, & Tanaka, Psychological Review 105:482-498, 1998) and the composite face effect (Young, Hellawell, & Hay, Perception 16:747-759, 1987). The results suggest that facial holism is generated by violations of several types of perceptual independence. They highlight the important theoretical role played by converging operations in the study of holistic face perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-1000
Number of pages18
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • Face perception
  • Face recognition
  • Perceptual organization

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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