The Body-Inversion Effect

Document Type



Psychology (CMC)

Publication Date



Researchers argue that faces are recognized via the configuration of their parts. An important behavioral finding supporting this claim is the face-inversion effect, in which inversion impairs recognition of faces more than nonface objects. Until recently, faces were the only class of objects producing the inversion effect for untrained individuals. This study investigated whether the inversion effect extends to human body positions, a class of objects whose exemplars are structurally similar to each other. Three experiments compared the recognition of upright and inverted faces, houses, and body positions using a forced-choice, same/different paradigm. For both reaction time and error data, the recognition of possible human body postures was more affected by inversion than the recognition of houses. Further, the recognition of possible human body postures and recognition of faces showed similar effects of inversion. The inversion effect was diminished for impossible body positions that violated the biomechanical constraints of human bodies. These data suggest that human body positions, like faces, may be processed configurally by untrained viewers.

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© 2003 American Psychological Society