Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
This article addresses three issues in face processing: First, is face processing primarily accomplished by the right hemisphere, or do both left- and right-hemisphere mechanisms play important roles? Second, are the mechanisms the same as those involved in general visual processing, or are they dedicated to face processing? Third, how can the mechanisms be characterized more precisely in terms of processes such as visual parsing? We explored these issues using the divided visual field methodology in four experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 provided evidence that both left- and right-hemisphere mechanisms are involved in face processing. In Experiment 1, a right-hemisphere advantage was found for both Same and Different trials when Same faces were identical and Different faces differed on all three internal facial features. Experiment 2 replicated the right-hemisphere advantage for Same trials but showed a left-hemisphere advantage for Different trials when one of three facial features differed between the target and the probe faces. Experiment 3 showed that the right-hemisphere advantage obtained with upright faces in Experiment 2 disappeared when the faces were inverted. This result suggests that there are right-hemisphere mechanisms specialized for processing upright faces, although it could not be determined whether these mechanisms are completely face-specific. Experiment 3 also provided evidence that the left-hemisphere mechanisms utilized in face processing tasks are general-purpose visual mechanisms not restricted to particular classes of visual stimuli. In Experiment 4, a left-hemisphere advantage was obtained when the task was to find one facial feature that was the same between the target and the probe faces. We suggest that left-hemisphere advantages shown in face processing are due to the parsing and analysis of the local elements of a face.