Sensitivity to Information Conveyed by Horizontal Contours is Correlated with Face Identification Accuracy
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We measured thresholds in a 1-of-10 face identification task in which stimuli were embedded in orientation-filtered Gaussian noise. For upright faces, the threshold elevation produced by the masking noise varied as a function of noise orientation: significantly greater masking was obtained with horizontal noise than with vertical noise. However, the orientation selectivity of masking was significantly less with inverted faces. The performance of an ideal observer was qualitatively similar to human observers viewing upright faces: the masking function exhibited a peak for horizontally oriented noise although the selectivity of masking was greater than what was observed in human observers. These results imply that significantly more information about facial identity was conveyed by horizontal contours than by vertical contours, and that human observers use this information more efficiently to identify upright faces than inverted faces. We also found a significant positive correlation between selectivity for horizontal information and face identification accuracy for upright, but not inverted faces. Finally, there was a significant positive correlation between horizontal tuning and the size of the face inversion effect. These results demonstrate that the use of information conveyed by horizontal contours is associated with face identification accuracy and the magnitude of the face inversion effect.
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