Face specific inversion effects provide evidence for two subtypes of developmental prosopagnosia

Bennetts, Rachel J.; Gregory, Nicola J.; Tree, Jeremy; Di Bernardi Luft, Caroline; Banissy, Michael J.; Murray, Ebony; Penton, Tegan and Bate, Sarah. 2022. Face specific inversion effects provide evidence for two subtypes of developmental prosopagnosia. Neuropsychologia, 174, p. 108332. ISSN 0028-3932 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Many studies have attempted to identify the perceptual underpinnings of developmental prosopagnosia (DP). The majority have focused on whether holistic and configural processing mechanisms are impaired in DP. However, previous work suggests that there is substantial heterogeneity in holistic and configural processing within the DP population; further, there is disagreement as to whether any deficits are face-specific or reflect a broader perceptual deficit. This study used a data-driven approach to examine whether there are systematic patterns of variability in DP that reflect different underpinning perceptual deficits. A group of individuals with DP (N = 37) completed a cognitive battery measuring holistic/configural and featural processing in faces and non-face objects. A two-stage cluster analysis on data from the Cambridge Face Perception Test identified two subgroups of DPs. Across several tasks, the first subgroup (N = 21) showed typical patterns of holistic/configural processing (measured via inversion effects); the second (N = 16) was characterised by reduced or abolished inversion effects compared to age-matched control participants (N = 91). The subgroups did not differ on tasks measuring upright face matching, object matching, non-face holistic processing, or composite effects. These findings indicate two separable pathways to face recognition impairment, one characterised by impaired configural processing and the other potentially by impaired featural processing. Comparisons to control participants provide some preliminary evidence that the deficit in featural processing may extend to some non-face stimuli. Our results demonstrate the utility of examining both the variability between and consistency across individuals with DP as a means of illuminating our understanding of face recognition in typical and atypical populations.

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MJB and TP were supported by an ESRC grant (ES/K00882X/1). SB is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (RF-2020-105).

Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.


Prosopagnosia, Face recognition, Face perception, Cluster analysis

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8 July 2022Accepted
14 July 2022Published Online
September 2022Published

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21 Jul 2022 15:42

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21 Jul 2022 15:42

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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