Does right hemisphere superiority sufficiently explain the left visual field advantage in face recognition?

Abstract

The tendency to perceive the identity of the left half of a centrally viewed face more strongly than that of the right half is associated with visual processing of faces in the right hemisphere (RH). Here we investigate conditions under which this well-known left visual field (LVF) half-face advantage fails to occur. Our findings challenge the sufficiency of its explanation as a function of RH specialization for face processing coupled with LVF-RH correspondence. In two experiments we show that the LVF half-face advantage occurs for normal faces and chimeric faces composed of different half-face identities. In a third experiment, we show that face inversion disrupts the LVF half-face advantage. In two additional experiments we show that half-faces viewed in isolation or paired with inverted half-faces fail to show the LVF advantage. Consistent with previous explanations of the LVF half-face advantage, our findings suggest that the LVF half-face advantage reflects RH superiority for processing faces and direct transfer of LVF face information to visual cortex in the RH. Critically, however, our findings also suggest the operation of a third factor, which involves the prioritization of face-processing resources to the LVF, but only when two upright face-halves compete for these resources. We therefore conclude that RH superiority alone does not suffice to explain the LVF advantage in face recognition. We also discuss the implications of our findings for specialized visual processing of faces by the right hemisphere, and we distinguish LVF advantages for faces viewed centrally and peripherally in divided field studies.

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Harrison, M.T., Strother, L. Does right hemisphere superiority sufficiently explain the left visual field advantage in face recognition?. Atten Percept Psychophys 82, 1205–1220 (2020). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-019-01896-0

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Keywords

  • Face recognition
  • Hemispheric specialization
  • Visual field bias
  • Holistic processing
  • Visual perception