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Talia Brandman, Galit Yovel; What is a face?. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):126. doi: 10.1167/14.10.126.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
What is a face? According to the dictionary a face is the front part of the head that includes the eyes, nose and mouth. To what extent this definition is consistent with the way our mind defines a face? The highly-selective cognitive and neural responses generated for faces, allow us to re-evaluate this definition by applying an inductive reasoning approach. In particular, if a stimulus is visually perceived as a face and exclusively activates face-selective neural and cognitive mechanisms, then our mind considers it a face. Recent evidence suggests that based on this approach, faceless heads in body context, which do not include internal facial features should be considered faces as they generate the most established face-specific markers. This includes face detection, inversion effect, configural processing, and face-selective neural responses. In particular, faceless heads in body context were perceived as faces during a brief masked face detection task. Second, they generate a face-sized inversion effect, which is specifically associated with face-selective brain areas. Third, face-selective areas show face-like configural processing of faceless heads in body context. These effects are not found for headless body stimuli or bodies presented from the back ruling out the possibility that face-selective markers are tuned to person-related stimuli rather than faces. These findings suggest that our definition of what the brain categorizes as a face should be modified to include also stimuli without internal facial features, thereby impacting both experimental and computational approaches to face perception. Generally, we show how empirical findings may go beyond our deductively defined concepts to expand our understanding of human cognition.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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