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Facial organization blocks access to low-level features: An object inferiority effect.

The current study investigated the influence of a low-level local feature (curvature) and a high-level emergent feature (facial expression) on rapid search. These features distinguished the target from the distractors and were presented either alone or together. Stimuli were triplets of up and down arcs organized to form meaningless patterns or schematic faces. In the feature search, the target had the only down arc in the display. In the conjunction search, the target was a unique combination of up and down arcs. When triplets depicted faces, the target was also the only smiling face among frowning faces. The face-level feature facilitated the conjunction search but, surprisingly, slowed the feature search. These results demonstrated that an object inferiority effect could occur even when the emergent feature was useful in the search. Rapid search processes appear to operate only on high-level representations even when low-level features would be more efficient. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)



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