Document Type


Publication Date



The type of visual information needed for categorizing faces and nonface objects was investigated by manipulating spatial frequency scales available in the image during a category verification task addressing basic and subordinate levels. Spatial filtering had opposite effects on faces and airplanes that were modulated by categorization level. The absence of low frequencies impaired the categorization of faces similarly at both levels, whereas the absence of high frequencies was inconsequential throughout. In contrast, basic-level categorization of airplanes was equally impaired by the absence of either low or high frequencies, whereas at the subordinate level, the absence of high frequencies had more deleterious effects. These data suggest that categorization of faces either at the basic level or by race is based primarily on their global shape but also on the configuration of details. By contrast, basic-level categorization of objects is based on their global shape, whereas category-specific diagnostic details determine the information needed for their subordinate categorization. The authors conclude that the entry point in visual recognition is flexible and determined conjointly by the stimulus category and the level of categorization, which reflects the observer’s recognition goal.


This is the NIH Public Access Author Manuscript. This article is published in its final edited form as Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 2009 August ; 35(4): 1264–1273. doi:10.1037/a0013621.