The Face of Humanity: Configural Face Processing Influences Ascriptions of Humanness

Kurt Hugenberg, Steven Young, Robert J. Rydell, Steven Almaraz, Kathleen A. Stanko, Pirita E. See, John Paul Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Across three studies, we test the hypothesis that the perceived “humanness” of a human face can have its roots, in part, in low-level, feature-integration processes typical of normal face perception—configural face processing. We provide novel evidence that perceptions of humanness/dehumanization can have perceptual roots. Relying on the well-established face inversion paradigm, we demonstrate that disruptions of configural face processing also disrupt the ability of human faces to activate concepts related to humanness (Experiment 1), disrupt categorization of human faces as human (but not animal faces as animals; Experiment 2), and reduce the levels of humanlike traits and characteristics ascribed to faces (Experiment 3). Taken together, the current findings provide a novel demonstration that dehumanized responses can arise from bottom-up perceptual cues, which suggests novel causes and consequences of dehumanizing responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-175
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • configural processing
  • dehumanization
  • face perception
  • mind perception


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