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Jessica Royer, Isabelle Charbonneau, Gabrielle Dugas, Valerie Plouffe, Caroline Blais, Daniel Fiset; Individual differences in face processing ability and consistency in visual strategies. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):997. doi: 10.1167/17.10.997.
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Individual differences in face processing ability are a useful tool to better understand the cognitive and perceptual mechanisms involved in optimal face processing (e.g. see Yovel et al., 2014). We recently showed using the Bubbles technique (Gosselin & Schyns, 2001) that these individual differences are linked to a quantitative increase in the use of the eye area of faces, a feature known to be highly diagnostic for accurate face recognition (Royer et al., VSS 2016 meeting). However, no specific visual strategy was found in the lower recognition ability observers, possibly due to the use of inconsistent visual strategies in these individuals. This inconsistency could manifest at different levels, namely (1) between subjects, i.e. lower ability individuals rely on idiosyncratic recognition strategies, or (2) within subjects, i.e. lower ability individuals show an unstable pattern of diagnostic information throughout the bubbles task. The present experiment directly investigates these propositions. Fifty participants (28 women) were first asked to complete 2000 trials of a 10-alternative forced choice face recognition task in which the stimuli were randomly sampled using Bubbles. All participants also completed three common face matching and recognition tests to quantify their face processing ability. First, between-subject consistency in visual strategies in observers with similar levels of identification performance was strongly correlated with general face processing ability (r = .69; p < .001). Moreover, this inconsistency in visual strategies was also present at the within-subject level. Indeed, face processing ability was also significantly correlated with each observer's level of consistency in their own visual strategies throughout the bubbles task (r = .42; p = .002). These results demonstrate that while higher ability face recognizers consistently use a similar and stable strategy to recognize faces, lower ability individuals instead rely on idiosyncratic and varying strategies, possibly reflecting the imprecision of their facial representations.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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