This study aimed to assess the effect of subjective difficulty on the degree of featural or configural processing in face recognition. It could be assumed that featural processing is analytic processing (Peterson & Rhodes, 2003), while configural processing is automatic processing (Dunning & Stern, 1994). It has been suggested that task difficulty affected the automaticity of processing. Task difficulty was manipulated using a number of alternatives or time pressure. Subjective difficulty could also affect the automaticity of processing. If so, then subjective difficulty may in turn affect the degree of featural or configural processing. Participants in a difficult condition were given instructions mentioning that the face-recognition task was difficult, while participants in the control condition were given no such instruction. The amount of retrieved featural information in the former condition was less than that in the latter. These results suggested that the degree of featural processing decreased when the participants found the task difficult.
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