The effect of disfiguring features on covert and overt attention to faces

Luc Boutsen, Nathan Pearson, Martin Jüttner

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstractpeer-review


It is well documented that facial disfigurements can generate avoidance responses in observers towards the afflicted person, yet less is known about the effect of a facial disfigurement on attention to and perception of faces. In two experiments we studied overt and covert attention to laterally presented face stimuli when these contained a unilateral disfiguring feature (a simulated portwine stain), an occluding feature, or no salient feature. In Experiment 1, observers’ eye movements were tracked while they explored laterally presented faces which they had to rate for attractiveness. Overt attention, as measured by the patterns of fixations on the face, was found to be significantly affected by the presence of a facial disfigurement or an occluder. In Experiment2, we used a covert orienting task with bilaterally presented target and distractor to measure the interference effect induced by a distractor face (disfigured, occluded, or normal) on a non facetarget discrimination task. The presence of a face increased response times to the target stimulus,but this interference was not modulated by the presence of a salient feature (disfigurement or occluder). Together, these results suggest that the presence of salient features affect overt but not the covert processing of faces.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1P1M057
Pages (from-to)17
Number of pages1
Issue numberSuppl.1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2015
Event38th European Conference on Visual Perception - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Aug 201627 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

ECVP 2015 Abstract: 38th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP) 2015 Liverpool


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