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Does My Face FIT?: A Face Image Task Reveals Structure and Distortions of Facial Feature Representation

Fuentes, C.F. ; Miranda, C.R. ; Alvarez, X. ; Orvalho, V. ; Haggard, P. H.

PLoS ONE Vol. 8, Nº 10, pp. e76805 - e76805, October, 2013.

ISSN (print): 1932-6203
ISSN (online):

Journal Impact Factor: 3,234 (in 2014)

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076805

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Despite extensive research on face perception, few studies have investigated individuals’ knowledge about the physical features of their own face. In this study, 50 participants indicated the location of key features of their own face, relative to an anchor point corresponding to the tip of the nose, and the results were compared to the true location of the same individual’s features from a standardised photograph. Horizontal and vertical errors were analysed separately. An overall bias to underestimate vertical distances revealed a distorted face representation, with reduced face height. Factor analyses were used to identify separable subconfigurations of facial features with correlated localisation errors. Independent representations of upper and lower facial features emerged from the data pattern. The major source of variation across individuals was in representation of face shape, with a spectrum from tall/thin to short/wide representation. Visual identification of one’s own face is excellent, and facial features are routinely used for establishing personal identity. However, our results show that spatial knowledge of one’s own face is remarkably poor, suggesting that face representation may not contribute strongly to self-awareness.