Multiple paths to holistic processing: Holistic processing of Gestalt stimuli do not overlap with holistic face processing in the same manner as do objects of expertise

  • Kim M. CurbyEmail author
  • Mengjie Huang
  • Denise Moerel


Holistic processing is often considered to be limited to faces and non-face objects of expertise, with previous studies revealing a specific mechanistic overlap between the holistic processing of these stimuli. However, more recently holistic processing has been demonstrated for untrained, novel stimuli containing salient Gestalt perceptual grouping cues. The relationship between the holistic processing of these novel stimuli and of faces is unclear. Here we examine whether there is a mechanistic overlap between the holistic processing of these two stimulus categories. To do this we used the same two-back interleaved part-matching task previously used to examine the mechanistic overlap between the processing of faces and of objects of expertise. Concurrent holistic processing of these salient Gestalt stimuli did not impact (Experiment 1), nor was it impacted by (Experiment 2), holistic processing of face stimuli. This suggests that the nature of the overlap between holistic processing of faces and of salient Gestalt stimuli may be distinct from that between objects of expertise and faces. We discuss potential mechanistic accounts of this difference.


Holistic processing Gestalt grouping cues Face processing Perceptual expertise 



This work was supported by an award from the Australia Research Council (DE130100969) to KMC.


  1. Boggan, A. L., Bartlett, J. C., & Krawczyk, D. C. (2012). Chess masters show a hallmark of face processing with chess. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(1), 37-42. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chua, K. W., Richler, J. J., & Gauthier, I. (2014). Becoming a Lunari or Taiyo expert: learned attention to parts drives holistic processing of faces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(3), 1174-1182. doi: Google Scholar
  3. Chua, K. W., Richler, J. J., & Gauthier, I. (2015). Holistic processing from learned attention to parts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(4), 723-729. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Curby, K. M., & Entenman, R. (2016). Framing faces: Frame alignment impacts holistic face perception. Attention Perception and Psychophysics, 78(8), 2569-2578. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Curby, K. M., Entenman, R. J., & Fleming, J. T. (2016). Holistic face perception is modulated by experience-dependent perceptual grouping. Attention Perception and Psychophysics, 78(5), 1392-1404. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Curby, K. M., & Gauthier, I. (2014). Interference between face and non-face domains of perceptual expertise: a replication and extension. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 955. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Curby, K. M., Goldstein, R. R., & Blacker, K. (2013). Disrupting perceptual grouping of face parts impairs holistic face processing. Attention Perception and Psychophysics, 75(1), 83-91. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Farah, M.-J. (1996). Is face recognition "special"? Evidence from neuropsychology. Behavioural Brain Research, 76(1-2),181-189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gao, Z., Flevaris, A. V., Robertson, L. C., & Bentin, S. (2011). Priming of global and local processing of composite faces: revisiting the processing-bias effect on face perception. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73(5), 1477-1486. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gauthier, I., Curran, T., Curby, K. M., & Collins, D. (2003). Perceptual interference supports a non-modular account of face processing. Nature Neuroscience, 6(4), 428-432. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. JASP Team (2018). JASP (Version 0.9) [Computer software]Google Scholar
  12. Kanwisher, N. (2000). Domain specificity in face perception. Nature Neuroscience, 3(8), 759-763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kimchi, R., & Hadad, B. S. (2002). Influence of past experience on perceptual grouping. Psychological Science, 13(1), 41-47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Noudoost, B., Adibi, M., Moeeny, A., & Esteky, H. (2005). Configural and analytical processing of familiar and unfamiliar objects. Brain Research Cognition Brain Research, 24(3), 436-441. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Richler, J. J., Bukach, C. M., & Gauthier, I. (2009). Context influences holistic processing of nonface objects in the composite task. Attention Perception and Psychophysics, 71(3), 530-540. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Richler, J. J., Tanaka, J. W., Brown, D. D., & Gauthier, I. (2008). Why does selective attention to parts fail in face processing? Journal Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, 34(6), 1356-1368. doi: Google Scholar
  17. Troje, N., & Bülthoff, H. H. (1996). Face recognition under varying pose: The role of texture and shape. Vision Research, 36(12), 1761-1771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Weston, N. J., & Perfect, T. J. (2005). Effects of processing bias on the recognition of composite face halves. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12(6), 1038-1042. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Young, A. W., Hellawell, D., & Hay, D. (1987). Configural information in face perception. Perception, 10, 747-759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Zemel, R. S., Mozer, M. C., Behrmann, M., & Bavelier, D. (2002). Experience-Dependent Perceptual Grouping and Object-Based Attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28(1), 202-217.Google Scholar
  21. Zhao, M., Bulthoff, H. H., & Bulthoff, I. (2015). A Shape-Based Account for Holistic Face Processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory & Cognition. doi:
  22. Zhao, M., Bulthoff, H. H., & Bulthoff, I. (2016). Beyond Faces and Expertise: Facelike Holistic Processing of Nonface Objects in the Absence of Expertise. Psychological Science, 27(2), 213-222. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and TrainingMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations