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How spatial frequencies and visual awareness interact during face processing.

In vision, high and low spatial frequencies have been dissociated at the cognitive and neural levels. Usually, high spatial frequency (HSF) is associated with slow analysis along the ventral cortical stream, and low spatial frequency (LSF) is associated with fast and automatic processing. These findings suggest a specific relation between spatial-frequency processing and visual awareness. We investigated this issue using masked-face priming with hybrid prime images of variable visibility. We found subliminal priming for both LSF and HSF information, along with a strong interaction between spatial frequency and visibility: HSF-related priming increased with stimulus visibility, whereas LSF influences remained unchanged. We argue that the results limit the validity of the coarse-to-fine model of vision and of models equating ventral-stream activity with perceptual awareness. Interpreting our results in light of the diagnostic approach suggests a close relation between awareness and diagnosticity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)