Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Allison B. Sekuler


Patrick J. Bennett



Committee Member

Daniel Goldreich


Holistic processing has been deemed a crucial part of human face processing. There are three tasks that are indexes of holistic processing and each is used by many researchers for the purposes of demonstrating that either their participants have intact holistic processing or that holistic processing is impaired or missing. The tasks that demonstrate holistic processing are the face inversion, composite face, and the whole-part tasks. In this dissertation, I evaluate the hypothesis that holistic processing is important for face identification. A secondary hypothesis that is evaluated is whether the three indexes of holistic processing are related and whether they are tapping the same underlying process. Chapter 2 tests the first hypothesis in a large group of young adults and shows that the composite face effect (an index of holistic processing) is not related to accuracy on two identification tasks. Chapter 3 tested both hypotheses and showed that none of the holistic indexes are related to one another and they are unrelated to face identification accuracy. In Chapter 4, a large group of older adults are tested on the composite face task and a face identification task, similar to Experiment 2 from Chapter 2. Unlike the results for young adults, older adults show a significant positive correlation between the composite face effect and identification accuracy even though older adults perform worse on the identification task.

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