Perceptual learning and acquired face familiarity: Evidence from inversion, use of internal features, and generalization between viewpoints

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Pairs of similar faces were created from photographs of different people using morphing software. The ability of participants to discriminate between novel pairs of faces and between those to which they had received brief, unsupervised, exposure (5×2 s each) was assessed. In all experiments exposure improved discrimination performance. Overall, discrimination was better when the faces were upright, but exposure produced improved discrimination for both upright and inverted faces (Experiment 1). The improvement produced by exposure was selective to internal face features (Experiment 2) and was evident when there was a change in orientation (three-quarter to full face or vice versa) between exposure and test (Experiment 3). These findings indicate that perceptual learning observed following brief exposure to faces exhibit well-established hallmarks of familiar face processing (i.e., internal feature advantage and insensitivity to a change of viewpoint). Considered in combination with previous studies using the same type of stimuli (Mundy, Honey, & Dwyer, 2007), the current results imply that general perceptual learning mechanisms contribute to the acquisition of face familiarity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2008

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