Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 995–1002 | Cite as

Touching on face space: Comparing visual and haptic processing of face shapes

Brief Report


The idea that faces are represented within a structured face space (Valentine Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 43: 161–204, 1991) has gained considerable experimental support, from both physiological and perceptual studies. Recent work has also shown that faces can even be recognized haptically—that is, from touch alone. Although some evidence favors congruent processing strategies in the visual and haptic processing of faces, the question of how similar the two modalities are in terms of face processing remains open. Here, this question was addressed by asking whether there is evidence for a haptic face space, and if so, how it compares to visual face space. For this, a physical face space was created, consisting of six laser-scanned individual faces, their morphed average, 50 %-morphs between two individual faces, as well as 50 %-morphs of the individual faces with the average, resulting in a set of 19 faces. Participants then rated either the visual or haptic pairwise similarity of the tangible 3-D face shapes. Multidimensional scaling analyses showed that both modalities extracted perceptual spaces that conformed to critical predictions of the face space framework, hence providing support for similar processing of complex face shapes in haptics and vision. Despite the overall similarities, however, systematic differences also emerged between the visual and haptic data. These differences are discussed in the context of face processing and complex-shape processing in vision and haptics.


Face perception Modality effects Face space Vision Haptics 


Author note

This research was supported by the WCU (World Class University) program through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Award No. R31-2008-000-10008-0); by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (Award No. NRF-2013R1A1A1011768); and by the Brain Korea 21 PLUS Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Education. The author gratefully acknowledges the support of Heinrich Bülthoff and Bianca Arsene for this study.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Brain and Cognitive EngineeringKorea UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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