Beyond faces and expertise: Facelike holistic processing of nonface objects in the absence of expertise

Mintao Zhao, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Isabelle Bülthoff

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39 Citations (Scopus)
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Holistic processing-the tendency to perceive objects as indecomposable wholes-has long been viewed as a process specific to faces or objects of expertise. Although current theories differ in what causes holistic processing, they share a fundamental constraint for its generalization: Nonface objects cannot elicit facelike holistic processing in the absence of expertise. Contrary to this prevailing view, here we show that line patterns with salient Gestalt information (i.e., connectedness, closure, and continuity between parts) can be processed as holistically as faces without any training. Moreover, weakening the saliency of Gestalt information in these patterns reduced holistic processing of them, which indicates that Gestalt information plays a crucial role in holistic processing. Therefore, holistic processing can be achieved not only via a top-down route based on expertise, but also via a bottom-up route relying merely on object-based information. The finding that facelike holistic processing can extend beyond the domains of faces and objects of expertise poses a challenge to current dominant theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
Early online date16 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • holistic processing
  • composite-face effect
  • expertise
  • face perception
  • Gestalt

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