Perceptual load effects on processing distractor faces indicate face-specific capacity limits
- Publisher: Taylor & Francis
The claim that face perception is mediated by a specialized ‘face module’ that proceeds automatically, independently of attention (e.g., Kanwisher, 2000) can be reconciled with load theory claims that visual perception has limited capacity (e.g., Lavie, 1995) by hypothesizing that face perception has face-specific capacity limits. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the effects of face and non-face perceptual load on distractor face processing. Participants searched a central array of either faces or letter-strings for a pop star versus politician’s face or name and made speeded classification responses. Perceptual load was varied through the relevant search set size. Response competition effects from a category-congruent or incongruent peripheral distractor face were eliminated with more than two faces in the face-search task but were unaffected by perceptual load in the name search task. These results support the hypothesis that face perception has face-specific capacity limits and resolve apparent discrepancies in previous research.
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