Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Eric Sellers

Committee Members

Alyson Chroust, Gerald Deehan, Kelly Moore


The study of human face-processing has granted insight into key adaptions across various social and biological functions. However, there is an overall lack of consistency regarding digital alteration styles of human-face stimuli. In order to investigate this, two independent studies were conducted examining unique effects of image construction and presentation. In the first study, three primary forms of stimuli presentation styles (color, black and white, cutout) were used across iterations of non-thatcherized/thatcherized and non-inverted/inverted presentations. Outcome measures included subjective reactions measured via ratings of perceived “grotesqueness,” and objective outcomes of N170 event-related potentials (ERPs) measured via encephalography. Results of subjective measures indicated that thatcherized images were associated with an increased level of grotesque perception, regardless of overall condition variant and inversion status. A significantly larger N170 component was found in response to cutout-style images of human faces, thatcherized images, and inverted images. Results suggest that cutout image morphology may be considered a well-suited image presentation style when examining ERPs and facial processing of otherwise unaltered human faces. Moreover, less emphasis can be placed on decision making regarding main condition morphology of human face stimuli as it relates to negatively valent reactions. The second study explored commonalities between thatcherized and uncanny images. The purpose of the study was to explore commonalities between these two styles of digital manipulation and establish a link between previously disparate areas of human-face processing research. Subjective reactions to stimuli were measured via participant ratings of “off-putting.” ERP data were gathered in order to explore if any unique effects emerged via N170 and N400 presentations. Two main “morph continuums” of stimuli, provided by Eduard Zell (see Zell et al., 2015), with uncanny features were utilized. A novel approach of thatcherizing images along these continuums was used. thatcherized images across both continuums were regarded as more off-putting than non-thatcherized images, indicating a robust subjective effect of thatcherization that was relatively unimpacted by additional manipulation of key featural components. Conversely, results from brain activity indicated no significant differences of N170 between level of shape stylization and their thatcherized counterparts. Unique effects between continuums and exploratory N400 results are discussed.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.