Gaze direction and face orientation modulate perceptual sensitivity to faces under interocular suppression

Renzo C. Lanfranco, Timo Stein, Hugh Rabagliati, David Carmel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Faces convey information essential for social interaction. Their importance has prompted suggestions that some facial features may be processed unconsciously. Although some studies have provided empirical support for this idea, it remains unclear whether these findings were due to perceptual processing or to post-perceptual decisional factors. Evidence for unconscious processing of facial features has predominantly come from the Breaking Continuous Flash Suppression (b-CFS) paradigm, which measures the time it takes different stimuli to overcome interocular suppression. For example, previous studies have found that upright faces are reported faster than inverted faces, and direct-gaze faces are reported faster than averted-gaze faces. However, this procedure suffers from important problems: Observers can decide how much information they receive before committing to a report, so their detection responses may be influenced by differences in decision criteria and by stimulus identification. Here, we developed a new procedure that uses predefined exposure durations, enabling independent measurement of perceptual sensitivity and decision criteria. We found higher detection sensitivity to both upright and direct-gaze (compared to inverted and averted-gaze) faces, with no effects on decisional factors. For identification, we found both greater sensitivity and more liberal criteria for upright faces. Our findings demonstrate that face orientation and gaze direction influence perceptual sensitivity, indicating that these facial features may be processed unconsciously.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7640
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • gaze processing
  • interocular suppression
  • unconscious processing
  • signal detection theory
  • face processing


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