Face, Body, and Center of Gravity Mediate Person Detection in Natural Scenes

Markus Bindemann*, Christoph Scheepers, Heather J. Ferguson, A. Mike Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Person detection is an important prerequisite of social interaction, but is not well understood. Following suggestions that people in the visual field can capture a viewer's attention, this study examines the role of the face and the body for person detection in natural scenes. We observed that viewers tend first to look at the center of a scene, and only then to fixate on a person. When a person's face was rendered invisible in scenes, bodies were detected as quickly as faces without bodies, indicating that both are equally useful for person detection. Detection was optimized when face and body could be seen, but observers preferentially fixated faces, reinforcing the notion of a prominent role for the face in social perception. These findings have implications for claims of attention capture by faces in that they demonstrate a mediating influence of body cues and general scanning principles in natural scenes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1477-1485
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


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