Holistic processing impairment can be restricted to faces in acquired prosopagnosia: Evidence from the global/local Navon effect


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Thomas Busigny, Unité de Cognition et Développement (CODE), Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Education (PSP), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Place du Cardinal Mercier, 10, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (e-mail: thomas.busigny@uclouvain.be).


Previous studies have shown that acquired prosopagnosia is characterized by impairment at holistic/configural processing. However, this view is essentially supported by studies performed with patients whose face recognition difficulties are part of a more general visual (integrative) agnosia. Here, we tested the patient PS, a case of acquired prosopagnosia whose face-specific recognition difficulties have been related to the inability to process individual faces holistically (absence of inversion, composite, and whole–part effects with faces). Here, we show that in contrast to this impairment, the patient presents with an entirely normal response profile in a Navon hierarchical letter task: she was as fast as normal controls, faster to identify global than local letters, and her sensitivity to global interference during identification of local letters was at least as large as normal observers. These observations indicate that holistic processing as measured with global/local interference in the Navon paradigm is functionally distinct from the ability to perceive an individual face holistically.