Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 363–369 | Cite as

Hemispheric asymmetry in discriminating faces differing for featural or configural (second-order relations) aspects

  • Zaira Cattaneo
  • Chiara Renzi
  • Silvia Bona
  • Lotfi B. Merabet
  • Claus-Christian Carbon
  • Tomaso Vecchi
Brief Report


The human capacity to discriminate among different faces relies on distinct parallel subprocesses, based either on the analysis of configural aspects or on the sequential analysis of the single elements of a face. A particular type of configural processing consists of considering whether two faces differ in terms of internal spacing among their features, referred to as second-order relations processing. Findings from electrophysiological, neuroimaging, and lesion studies suggest that, overall, configural processes rely more on the right hemisphere, whereas analysis of single features would involve more the left. However, results are not always consistent, and behavioral evidence for a right-hemisphere specialization in second-order relations processing is lacking. Here, we used divided visual field presentation to investigate the possible different contributions of the two hemispheres to face discrimination based on relational versus featural processing. Our data indicate a right-hemispheric specialization in relational processing of upright (but not inverted) faces. Furthermore, we provide evidence regarding the involvement of both the right and left hemispheres in the processing of faces differing for inner features, suggesting that both analytical and configural modes of processing are at play.


Configural Featural Face processing Lateralization Divided visual field Jane faces task 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zaira Cattaneo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chiara Renzi
    • 2
  • Silvia Bona
    • 3
  • Lotfi B. Merabet
    • 4
  • Claus-Christian Carbon
    • 5
  • Tomaso Vecchi
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Brain Connectivity CenterNational Neurological Institute C. MondinoPaviaItaly
  3. 3.Brain Research Unit, O.V. Lounasmaa Laboratory, School of ScienceAalto UniversityEspooFinland
  4. 4.Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear InfirmaryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of General Psychology and MethodologyUniversity of BambergBambergGermany
  6. 6.Department of Brain and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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