Inversion Effects in the Expert Classification of Mammograms and Faces

Michael Chin, Karla Evans, Jeremy Wolfe, James Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A hallmark of a perceptual expert is the ability to detect and categorize stimuli in their domain of expertise after brief exposure. For example, expert radiologists can differentiate between “abnormal” & “normal” mammograms after a 250 msec exposure. It has been speculated that rapid detection depends on a global analysis referred to as holistic perception. Holistic processing in radiology seems similar to holistic perception in which a stimulus like a face is perceived as an integrated whole, not in terms of its individual features. Holistic processing is typically subject to inversion effects in which the inverted image is harder to process/recognize. Is radiological perception similarly subject to inversion effects? Eleven experienced radiologists (> 5 years of radiological experience) and ten resident radiologists (<5 years of radiological experience) judged upright and inverted bilateral mammograms as “normal” or “abnormal”. For comparison, the same participants judged whether upright and inverted faces were “happy” or “neutral”. We obtained the expected inversion effect for faces. Expression discrimination was superior for upright faces. For mammograms, experienced radiologists exhibited a similar inversion effect, showing higher accuracy for upright than for inverted mammograms. Less experienced radiology residents performed more poorly than experienced radiologists and demonstrated no inversion effect with mammograms. These results suggest that the ability to discriminate normal from abnormal mammograms is a form of learned, holistic processing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive research: principles and implications
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2018.


  • Holistic
  • Perceptual Expertise
  • Radiology
  • Inversion

Cite this