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Characterizing typographic expertise: Do we process typefaces like faces?

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Abstract:

Studies of face recognition and discrimination provide a rich source of data and debate on the nature of their processing, in particular through using inverted faces. This study draws parallels between the features of typefaces and faces, as letters share a basic configuration, regardless of typeface, that could be seen as similar to faces. Typeface discrimination is compared using paragraphs of upright letters and inverted letters at three viewing durations. Based on previously reported effects of expertise, the prediction that designers would be less accurate when letters are inverted, whereas nondesigners would have similar performance in both orientations, was confirmed. A proposal is made as to which spatial relations between typeface components constitute holistic and configural processing, posited as the basis for better discrimination of the typefaces of upright letters. Such processing may characterize designers' perceptual abilities, acquired through training.

Keywords: Configural processing; Inversion effect; Perceptual abilities; Typeface discrimination

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13506285.2012.722568

Affiliations: Department of Typography & Graphic Communication,University of Reading, Reading, UK

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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