Humans use the direction of eye gaze and facial identity to make important social judgments. We carried out the first measurements of spatial frequency (SF) tuning for judgments of eye gaze, and compared SF tuning for judgments of facial identity and eye gaze. In Experiment 1, participants discriminated between leftward and rightward shifts of gaze, or between two male faces or two female faces. Faces were masked with visual noise that blocked one of 10 SF bands. For each task and masking SF, we measured contrast thresholds for human observers, and used an ideal observer to measure the amount of visual information available to perform the task. As in previous research, low to mid SFs were most important for judgments of facial identity. Mid to high SFs were most important for judgments of eye gaze, and the highest SF important for these judgments was higher than that for identity. In Experiment 2, participants discriminated horizontal and vertical shifts of gaze. The highest SF important for judgments of gaze did not differ between the horizontal and vertical axes. However, SFs above and below this value were more important for judgments of vertical shifts of gaze than for horizontal shifts of gaze. These results suggest that the visual system relies on higher SFs for judgments of eye gaze than for judgments of facial identity, and that SF tuning is broader for judgments of vertical shifts of gaze than for horizontal shifts of gaze.
Vida, M. D., & Maurer, D. (2015). A comparison of spatial frequency tuning for judgments of eye gaze and facial identity. Vision Research, 112, 45–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2015.04.018