The importance of awareness in face processing: A critical review of interocular suppression studies

Renzo Lanfranco, Hugh Rabagliati, David Carmel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Human faces convey essential information for understanding others’ mental states and intentions. The importance of faces in social interaction has prompted suggestions that some relevant facial features such as configural information, emotional expression, and gaze direction may promote preferential access to awareness. This evidence has predominantly come from interocular suppression studies, with the most common method being the Breaking Continuous Flash Suppression (bCFS) procedure, which measures the time it takes different stimuli to overcome interocular suppression. However, the procedures employed in such studies suffer from multiple methodological limitations. For example, they are unable to disentangle detection from identification processes, their results may be confounded by participants’ response bias and decision criteria, they typically use small stimulus sets, and some of their results attributed to detecting high-level facial features (e.g., emotional expression) may be confounded by differences in low-level visual features (e.g., contrast, spatial frequency). In this article, we review the evidence from the bCFS procedure on whether relevant facial features promote access to awareness, discuss the main limitations of this very popular method, and propose strategies to address these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114116
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Volume437
Early online date13 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • face perception
  • unconscious processing
  • interocular suppression
  • continuous flash suppression
  • visual processing
  • visual awareness

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