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Xinyi Ouyang, Luca Vizioli, Meike Ramon, Roberto Caldara; Culture shapes neural representations for faces: an eye movement and fMRI study. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):859. doi: 10.1167/13.9.859.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Globalization is a unique phenomenon in human history and a constitutive feature of modern societies. Exposure to diverse cultural groups is quickly becoming the norm and the understanding on how culture shapes human cognition a fundamental question for neuroscientists. We recently found that the face system flexibly engages into local or global eye movement strategies across cultures, by relying on distinct facial features (i.e., the eyes for Westerners, the central region of the face for Easterners) and culturally tuned spatially filtered information. These observations challenge the view of a unique putative process for face processing. Yet, the underling neural mechanisms of this cultural perceptual tuning have never been directly investigated at the neural level. To address this question, we simultaneously recorded the BOLD signal and the eye movements of Western and Eastern observers while performing an old/new face recognition and race categorization tasks with Western and Eastern faces. Importantly, we parametrically varied the available spatial frequency (SF) content using Laplacian pyramids, thus simulating visual information at different viewing distances. We computed representational similarity matrices in 4 face-sensitive Regions of Interest (right and left Fusiform Face Area, and Occipital Face Area) by correlating the neural activity elicited by the different level of SFs, independently per task and face races. Culturally specific eye movement patterns emerged with increased availability of SF content. Importantly, Easterners displayed their typical global fixation pattern earlier (i.e. with less high SF) than Western observers. Critically, these behavioral differences, with their relative task constraints, modulated the neural representations in the rFFA only. Our data show that culture shapes face processing, by tuning the eye movements, SF information intake and neural representations. These findings reinforce the view that the face system does not subserve universal computational rules and provide novel insights on human diversity.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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