The face is a critical stimulus in person perception, yet little research has considered the efficiency of the processing operations through which perceivers glean social knowledge from facial cues. Integrating ideas from work on social cognition and face processing, the current research considered the ease with which invariant aspects of person knowledge can be extracted from faces under different viewing and processing conditions. The results of 2 experiments demonstrated that participants extracted knowledge pertaining to the sex and identity of faces in both upright and inverted orientations, even when the faces were irrelevant to the task at hand. The results of an additional experiment, however, suggested that although the extraction of person knowledge from faces may occur unintentionally, the process is nonetheless contingent on the operation of a semantic processing goal. The authors consider the efficiency of person construal and the processes that support this fundamental facet of social-cognitive functioning.
Macrae, C. Neil, K. Quinn, Malia Mason, and S. Quadflieg. "Understanding others: The face and person construal." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89 (2004): 686-695.
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