Testing the magnocellular-pathway advantage in facial expressions processing for consistency over time

Maor Zeev-Wolf, Yuri Rassovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The ability to identify facial expressions rapidly and accurately is central to human evolution. Previous studies have demonstrated that this ability relies to a large extent on the magnocellular, rather than parvocellular, visual pathway, which is biased toward processing low spatial frequencies. Despite the generally consistent finding, no study to date has investigated the reliability of this effect over time. In the present study, 40 participants completed a facial emotion identification task (fearful, happy, or neutral faces) using facial images presented at three different spatial frequencies (low, high, or broad spatial frequency), at two time points separated by one year. Bayesian statistics revealed an advantage for the magnocellular pathway in processing facial expressions; however, no effect for time was found. Furthermore, participants’ RT patterns of results were highly stable over time. Our replication, together with the consistency of our measurements within subjects, underscores the robustness of this effect. This capacity, therefore, may be considered in a trait-like manner, suggesting that individuals may possess various ability levels for processing facial expressions that can be captured in behavioral measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107352
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2020


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Facial expression
  • Magnocellular
  • Parvocellular
  • Spatial frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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