The present study aimed to examine the extremes of holistic processing through the creation of a continuum of face representations. To this end, participants were presented with photos of real faces, realist, impressionist, and abstract expressionist paintings as well as pictures of pareidolia (visual patterns perceived as faces). In a priming task, participants were shown two images, one after the other, and instructed to make same/different judgments. Behavioral measures and electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings were analyzed with a focus on event-related potentials known to be responsive to face processing: N170, N250r and N400. Results revealed accuracy rates to be highest for categories that most closely approximated real faces and ERPs to be more responsive to these types of faces. Specifically, accuracy rates were highest for realism and impressionism and lowest for pareidolia, while N170 and N250r activation was greatest in response to photos and realist paintings followed by impressionism, abstract expressionism, and pareidolia. The N400 component exhibited the smallest priming effect in response to abstract paintings, suggesting that abnormal face representations are more difficult to create mental representations of, thus providing converging evidence for face perception as a continuum. Taken together, these results revealed the existence of intermediate steps in face and object processing, supporting the notion that holistic processing is not either/or but rather varies in the extent to which it is employed.


Herzmann, Grit




Cognition and Perception

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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