Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Yoav Arieh

Committee Member

Jennifer Pardo

Committee Member

John Paul Wilson


Face perception is an important ability that allows us to carry out social interactions, recognize others, assess emotions, and understand social cues. Many researchers believe that faces are processed holistically, meaning that humans combine the many parts of a face into a single visual representation. The face is viewed as a complete whole, rather than a collection of specific facial features. Consequently, processing a face holistically makes it more difficult to selectively attend to parts of the face. A small subset of literature has showed that the emotional state of the perceiver can affect the degree to which a stimulus is processed holistically. However, most of this literature has used emotion induction to assess individuals’ perception of neutral faces. Thus, not much is known about how emotional expressions in the face stimuli themselves affect holistic processing. The present study uses the Garner paradigm, a strong tool for measuring selective attention, and a classification task in order to assess the effects of negative, neutral, and positive facial expressions on the holistic processing of artificially constructed face stimuli, known as composite faces. Findings show some support that negative faces are not processed holistically, and that positive expressions facilitate greater holistic processing. Results also suggest that neutral faces do not promote holistic processing. The present study overall suggests that holistic perception is not an automatic process, as previously asserted, and that the emotional context of a face dictates the strength and presence of holistic processing.

File Format


Included in

Psychology Commons