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Fabian A. Soto, Edward A. Wasserman; Asymmetrical interactions in the perception of face identity and emotional expression are not unique to the primate visual system. Journal of Vision 2011;11(3):24. doi: 10.1167/11.3.24.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The human visual system appears to process the identity of faces separately from their emotional expression, whereas the human visual system does not appear to process emotional expression separately from identity. All current explanations of this visual processing asymmetry implicitly assume that it arises because of the organization of a specialized human face perception system. A second possibility is that this finding reflects general principles of perceptual processing. Studying animals that are unlikely to have evolved a specialized face perception system may shed fresh light on this issue. We report two experiments that investigated the interaction of identity and emotional expression in pigeons' perception of human faces. Experiment 1 found that pigeons perceive the similarity among faces sharing identity and emotion, and that these two dimensions are integral according to a spatial model of generalization. Experiment 2 found that pigeons' discrimination of emotion was reliably affected by irrelevant variations in identity, whereas pigeons' discrimination of identity was not reliably affected by irrelevant variations in emotion. Thus, the asymmetry previously reported in human studies was reproduced in our pigeon study. These results challenge the view that a specialized human face perception system must underlie this effect.
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