Human face and gaze perception is highly context specific and involves bottom-up and top-down neural processing

Mijna Hadders-Algra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
81 Downloads (Pure)


This review summarizes human perception and processing of face and gaze signals. Face and gaze signals are important means of non-verbal social communication. The review highlights that: (1) some evidence is available suggesting that the perception and processing of facial information starts in the prenatal period; (2) the perception and processing of face identity, expression and gaze direction is highly context specific, the effect of race and culture being a case in point. Culture affects by means of experiential shaping and social categorization the way in which information on face and gaze is collected and perceived; (3) face and gaze processing occurs in the so-called 'social brain'. Accumulating evidence suggests that the processing of facial identity, facial emotional expression and gaze involves two parallel and interacting pathways: a fast and crude subcortical route and a slower cortical pathway. The flow of information is bi-directional and includes bottom-up and top-down processing. The cortical networks particularly include the fusiform gyrus, superior temporal sulcus (STS), intraparietal sulcus, temporoparietal junction and medial prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-323
Number of pages20
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date30-Nov-2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022

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