The role of holistic processing in judgments of facial attractiveness

Zara-Angela Abbas, Bradley Duchaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work has demonstrated that facial identity recognition, expression recognition, gender categorisation, and race categorisation rely on a holistic representation. Here we examine whether a holistic representation is also used for judgments of facial attractiveness. Like past studies, we used the composite paradigm to assess holistic processing (Young et al., 1987, Perception, 16, 747-759). Experiment 1 showed that top halves of upright faces are judged to be more attractive when aligned with an attractive bottom half than when aligned with an unattractive bottom half. To assess whether this effect resulted from holistic processing or more general effects, we examined the impact of the attractive and unattractive bottom halves when upright halves were misaligned and when aligned and misaligned halves were presented upside-down. The bottom halves had no effect in either condition. These results demonstrate that the perceptual processes underlying upright facial-attractiveness judgments represent the face holistically. Our findings with attractiveness judgments and previous demonstrations involving other aspects of face processing suggest that a common holistic representation is used for most types of face processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-1196
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2008

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