The right place at the right time: Priming facial expressions with emotional face components in developmental visual agnosia

Hillel Aviezer*, Ran R. Hassin, Anat Perry, Veronica Dudarev, Shlomo Bentin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The current study examined the nature of deficits in emotion recognition from facial expressions in case LG, an individual with a rare form of developmental visual agnosia (DVA). LG presents with profoundly impaired recognition of facial expressions, yet the underlying nature of his deficit remains unknown. During typical face processing, normal sighted individuals extract information about expressed emotions from face regions with activity diagnostic for specific emotion categories. Given LG's impairment, we sought to shed light on his emotion perception by examining if priming facial expressions with diagnostic emotional face components would facilitate his recognition of the emotion expressed by the face. LG and control participants matched isolated face components with components appearing in a subsequently presented full-face and then categorized the face's emotion. Critically, the matched components were from regions which were diagnostic or non-diagnostic of the emotion portrayed by the full face. In experiment 1, when the full faces were briefly presented (150. ms), LG's performance was strongly influenced by the diagnosticity of the components: his emotion recognition was boosted within normal limits when diagnostic components were used and was obliterated when non-diagnostic components were used. By contrast, in experiment 2, when the face-exposure duration was extended (2000. ms), the beneficial effect of the diagnostic matching was diminished as was the detrimental effect of the non-diagnostic matching. These data highlight the impact of diagnostic facial features in normal expression recognition and suggest that impaired emotion recognition in DVA results from deficient visual integration across diagnostic face components.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)949-957
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by an NIMH grant R01 MH 64458-06 to S. Bentin, and an ISF grant 1035/07 to R. Hassin. We thank Tahel Roy for her skilful help in running the experiments and we thank LG and his family for their cooperation and help.


  • Developmental visual agnosia
  • Diagnostic components
  • Facial expressions


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