An extensive literature has documented the cognitive benefits that accrue from a categorical conception of others. While informative, this work has overlooked the fact that, prior to the application of categorical thinking as an economizing cognitive tool, perceivers must first extract category-triggering information from available facial cues. What this suggests is that an impetus to construe others categorically may reside in the perceptual operations that guide the preliminary stages of person understanding. This possibility was explored in three experiments that investigated the effects of stimulus rotation on the efficiency of identity-based and category-based construal. In the first experiment, sex categorization was compared directly to identity-based construal. Subsequent experiments then investigated the efficiency of sex (Experiment 2) and race (Experiment 3) categorization when critical category-specifying facial cues were present and absent. The results demonstrated that categorical responding is driven by the extraction of featural information from faces, a finding that informs recent theoretical accounts of person perception. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.