Facial image manipulation: A tool for investigating social perception

Clare AM Sutherland* (Corresponding Author), Gillian Rhodes, Andrew W Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
157 Downloads (Pure)


Image manipulation of real face photographs, including averaging, morphing, and caricaturing, is widely used in studies of face perception. These methods have led to theoretical insights across topics of interest to social psychologists, including social perception, social categorization, stereotyping, prejudice, impression formation, and individual differences. They may also have practical applications in diagnosing clinical impairments of social perception. Here, we outline key manipulation methods, comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, illustrate the breadth of theoretical insights already achieved, and offer best practice guidelines. We hope that the review stimulates greater use of these powerful methods to understand social perception and encourages studies that bridge theory between visual perception and social psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-551
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
Early online date19 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CE110001021), an ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award to Rhodes (DP130102300), and an ARC Discovery grant to Rhodes, Sutherland, and Young (DP170104602).


  • social perception
  • impression formation
  • face perception
  • individual differences
  • stereotyping
  • emotional expression


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