2006 volume 35(6) pages 749 – 759

Cite as:
Russell R, Sinha P, Biederman I, Nederhouser M, 2006, "Is pigmentation important for face recognition? Evidence from contrast negation" Perception 35(6) 749 – 759

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Is pigmentation important for face recognition? Evidence from contrast negation

Richard Russell, Pawan Sinha, Irving Biederman, Marissa Nederhouser

Received 28 January 2005, in revised form 7 June 2005; published online 26 April 2006

Abstract. It is extraordinarily difficult to recognize a face in an image with negated contrast, as in a photographic negative. The variation among faces can be partitioned into two general sources: (a) shape and (b) surface reflectance, here termed ‘pigmentation’. To determine whether negation differentially affects the processing of shape or pigmentation, we made two sets of faces where the individual faces differed only in shape in one set and only in pigmentation in the other. Surprisingly, matching performance was significantly impaired by contrast negation only when the faces varied in pigmentation. This provides evidence that the perception of pigmentation, not shape, is selectively disrupted by negation and, by extension, that pigmentation contributes to the neural representation of face identity.

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