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Janice E. Murray, Chen Yan; Face aftereffects and unattended faces. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):883. doi: 10.1167/6.6.883.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
After adaptation to faces with contracted (or expanded) internal features, faces previously perceived as normal appear distorted in the opposite direction. These face aftereffects suggest that face-coding mechanisms adapt rapidly to changes in the spatial relations of face features and/or the global structure of the face. Previous work by Lavie et al. (2003) has shown that task-irrelevant faces are processed for identity regardless of the perceptual load in a task-relevant search task. This suggests that face processing is automatic and not dependent on general capacity limits. To what degree does face adaptation require attention? To answer this question, adaptation to ignored faces was tested under two conditions of perceptual load, low (two search items) and high (six search items). Before and after an adaptation phase, participants rated the normality of morphed distorted faces ranging from maximally contracted through normal to maximally expanded. In the adaptation phase, participants were presented with a vertical array of two or six letter strings flanked to the left or right by a face with maximally contracted features. Participants either attended to the adaptation faces, or ignored them and decided whether a target word in the array was a fruit or a vegetable. A reduced but significant face aftereffect was observed when adaptation faces were ignored, regardless of perceptual load. These results suggest that face adaptation, as a possible mechanism for rapid updating of what looks normal, occurs automatically and independent of general capacity limits.
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