The processing of facial identity and expression is interactive, but dependent on task and experience

Alla Yankouskaya, Glyn W Humphreys, Pia Rotshtein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


Facial identity and emotional expression are two important sources of information for daily social interaction. However the link between these two aspects of face processing has been the focus of an unresolved debate for the past three decades. Three views have been advocated: (1) separate and parallel processing of identity and emotional expression signals derived from faces; (2) asymmetric processing with the computation of emotion in faces depending on facial identity coding but not vice versa; and (3) integrated processing of facial identity and emotion. We present studies with healthy participants that primarily apply methods from mathematical psychology, formally testing the relations between the processing of facial identity and emotion. Specifically, we focused on the "Garner" paradigm, the composite face effect and the divided attention tasks. We further ask whether the architecture of face-related processes is fixed or flexible and whether (and how) it can be shaped by experience. We conclude that formal methods of testing the relations between processes show that the processing of facial identity and expressions interact, and hence are not fully independent. We further demonstrate that the architecture of the relations depends on experience; where experience leads to higher degree of inter-dependence in the processing of identity and expressions. We propose that this change occurs as integrative processes are more efficient than parallel. Finally, we argue that the dynamic aspects of face processing need to be incorporated into theories in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number920
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2014


  • Journal Article
  • face processing
  • integration
  • identity
  • emotions
  • redundancy gains
  • capacity processing


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