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Incomplete faces are completed using a more average face
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, Volume: 7, Issue: 1
Swansea University Author: Alex Jones
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Facial first impressions are known to influence how we behave towards others. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we often view incomplete faces due to the commonplace wearing of face masks. Previous research has shown that perceptions of attractiveness are often increased due to these coverings,...
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Facial first impressions are known to influence how we behave towards others. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we often view incomplete faces due to the commonplace wearing of face masks. Previous research has shown that perceptions of attractiveness are often increased due to these coverings, with initial evidence suggesting that this may be caused by viewers using a mental representation of the average face to complete any missing information. Here, we directly address this hypothesis by presenting participants with incomplete faces (either the lower or upper half removed) and asking them to decide how they thought the actual, full face looked. Participants were able to manipulate the missing half of the face onscreen by increasing or decreasing the averageness of its shape. Our results demonstrated that participants did not select the original versions of the faces but instead chose more average versions when manipulating both the lower and upper face. Further, the typicality of the original image influenced responses, with less typical faces (in comparison with more typical ones) being completed using an even more average version of the missing half of the faces. Taken together, these findings provide the first direct evidence that people utilise an average/typical internal representation when inferring information about incomplete faces. This result has theoretical importance in terms of visual perception, as well as real-world relevance in a time where face masks are commonplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facial attractiveness; Facial typicality; Positivity bias; Upper- and lower-face; Face morph; Face average
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences