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Mooney Faces
Aaron Schurger GS
Department of Psychology
In 1957 Craig Mooney, a cognitive psychologist, published “Age in the development of closure ability in children.” He used images similar to the ones above to test the ability of children to perform “perceptual closure”—that is, to form a coherent perceptual impression on the basis of very little visual detail. Images of this type, often referred to as Mooney faces, have become common in cognitive psychology experiments because they offer a means of inducing variable perception with constant visuo-spatial characteristics (the images are very often not perceived as faces if viewed upside down). I have used such images in an experiment I conducted with a “blindsight” patient, to test for signs of face perception without awareness. I used many of Mooney’s original 40 images, but also created a few hundred of my own (with the help of my wife, Corinne Foy). Along the way, I have come to appreciate many of the images as being very pleasant to look at. It is fascinating to notice how little visual information it takes to experience a face (humans have evolved very effective and efficient mechanisms for the perception of faces), and at the same time to notice the variety of other shapes and contours that emerge.