Vol 4, Issue 3, August 2017

What's in a Face (Made of Foods)? Comparing Children's and Monkeys' Perception of Faces in Face-Like Images of Food


Beran, M. J., Perdue, B. M., Kelly, A. J., & Parrish, A. E. (2017). What’s in a face (made of foods)? Comparing children’s and monkey’s perception of faces in face-like images of food. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 4(3), 324-339. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Arcimboldo images are pictorial stimuli composed of fruits, vegetables, and other objects arranged in a way to resemble human faces. These images were originally created by the artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo in the 16th century, but more recently have been used by psychologists and neuroscientists to explore perceptual processes among human adults. Past research has demonstrated that humans process these stimuli in a very similar manner to the processing of actual human faces. The present study investigated if children, rhesus monkeys, and capuchin monkeys also would holistically process these and similar-looking images as faces. After learning to classify training images as faces or foods, participants were presented probe trials of new food images, new face images, illusory images (i.e., Arcimboldo images and similar face-like images), and scattered images (i.e., those same images with critical pieces of the image rearranged to take away the sense of seeing a face), and they had to classify each image as a face or non-face. Three-and-a-half to five-year-old children reported seeing faces in the illusory stimuli significantly more than in the scattered images. Conversely, rhesus and capuchin monkeys were equally likely to classify the illusory stimuli and the scattered stimuli as faces. These results suggest that young children have a tendency to process stimuli more holistically when they resemble a face, whereas monkeys process these face-like images more locally.