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Andrew L. Skinner, Christopher P. Benton; The expressions of strangers: Our identity-independent representation of facial expression. Journal of Vision 2012;12(2):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.2.12.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Evidence suggests that underlying the human system processing facial expressions are two types of representation of expression: one dependent on identity and the other independent of identity. We recently presented findings indicating that identity-dependent representations are encoded using a prototype-referenced scheme, in a manner notably similar to that proposed for facial identity. Could it be that identity-independent representations are encoded this way too? We investigated this by adapting participant to anti-expressions and asking them to categorize the expression aftereffect in a prototype probe that was either the same (congruent) or different (incongruent) identity to that of the adapter. To distinguish between encoding schemes, we measured how aftereffect magnitude changed in response to variations in the strength of adapters. The increase in aftereffect magnitude with adapter strength characteristic of prototype-referenced encoding was observed in both congruent and, crucially, incongruent conditions. We conclude that identity-independent representations of expression are indeed encoded using a prototype-referenced scheme. The striking similarity between the encoding of facial identity and both representations of expression raises the possibility that prototype-referenced encoding might be a common scheme for encoding the many types of information in faces needed to enable our complex social interactions.
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