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Adaptor gaze direction affects the magnitude of face identity aftereffects

56.4025, Tuesday, 19-May, 2:45 pm - 6:45 pm, Pavilion
Session: Face Perception: Development, adaptation, and learning

Nadine Kloth1, Linda Jeffery1, Gillian Rhodes1; 1ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia

The face perception system partly owes its efficiency to adaptive mechanisms that constantly recalibrate face coding to our current diet of faces. Moreover, faces that are better attended produce more adaptation. Here, we investigated whether the social cues conveyed by a face can influence the amount of adaptation it induces. We compared the magnitude of face identity aftereffects induced by adaptors with direct and averted gaze. We reasoned that faces conveying direct gaze may be more engaging and better attended, and thus produce larger aftereffects, than those with averted gaze. Using an adaptation duration of 5s, we found that aftereffects for adaptors with direct and averted gaze did not differ (Experiment 1). However, when processing demands were increased by reducing duration to 1s, we found that gaze direction did affect the magnitude of the aftereffect, but in an unexpected direction: aftereffects were larger for adaptors with averted rather than direct gaze (Experiment 2). Eye tracking revealed that differences in looking time to the faces between the two gaze directions could not account for these findings. Subsequent ratings of the stimuli (Experiment 3) showed that adaptors with averted gaze were actually perceived as more expressive and interesting than adaptors with direct gaze. Therefore it appears that the averted gaze faces were more engaging and better attended, leading to larger aftereffects. Overall, our results suggest that naturally occuring facial signals can modulate the impact a face exerts on our perceptual system. Specifically, the faces that we perceive as most interesting also appear to calibrate the organization of our perceptual system most strongly.

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