Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Andrew D. Engell


It is widely accepted that holistic processing is critical for early face recognition, but recent work has suggested a larger role for parts-based processing. Here, we investigate whether parts-based processing effectively engages the early identity recognition system. The N250r event-related potential (ERP) component is the earliest neural marker of familiar face recognition. It is recorded from inferior occipitotemporal electrodes as a negative deflection 200 – 300 ms after the onset of a target face preceded by a prime face of the same identity. It has therefore been proposed that the N250r reflects matching of a perceptual representation of a face to a stored memory representation of that face. In the current study, we investigate the effectiveness of primes that require parts-based processing to modulate the N250r. In the first experiment, prime images were familiar full faces, isolated eyes, or isolated mouths. We found that isolated eyes, but not isolated mouths, effectively modulated the N250r. In the second experiment, prime images were inverted familiar faces, which are processed in a parts-based manner rather than holistically. We found no effect of inversion. That is, inverted face primes were no less effective than upright face primes in modulating the N250r. These results indicate that holistic processing is not necessary for engaging the earliest familiar face recognition processes. Moreover, the eyes are a privileged feature in identity recognition.

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