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Chan Vu, Nathan Heller, John Collins, Nicolas Davidenko; Attending to race (or gender) does not enhance adaptation to race (or gender). Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):736. doi: 10.1167/16.12.736.
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Recent research has shown that attention can modulate the strength of face aftereffects. For example attending to changes in facial features increases the strength of identity and figural aftereffects relative to passive viewing (Rhodes et al. 2011). Here we ask whether attending to a specific social dimension of a face influences the strength of face aftereffects in that dimension: specifically, does attending to race (or gender) increase the strength of race (or gender) aftereffects? Across three studies participants (153 UC Santa Cruz undergraduates) observed computer-generated adapting faces that were either unambiguously European and male, or Asian and female for 5 seconds, while instructed to focus on either the race or gender of the face (see Figure 1). In Study 1 (N=45) an intermediate question followed each adapter, soliciting a rating of the attended dimension (e.g. race). In Study 2 (N=68) only half of the trials included this intermediate question, and in Study 3 (N=40) only one quarter of the trials did. In all three studies participants were subsequently presented with a neutral face and asked to rate it on either the attended dimension (e.g. race; congruent trials) or the unattended dimension (e.g. gender; incongruent trials) using a 7-point scale. Overall, participants showed significant aftereffects for both gender and race, manifesting as higher female ratings of the neutral faces following male vs. female adaptors and higher Asian ratings of the neutral faces following European vs. Asian adaptors. Intriguingly, although the attention manipulation influenced reaction times (with lower reaction times on dimension-congruent vs. dimension-incongruent ratings; see Figure 2), attending to race (or gender) did not increase the magnitude of the aftereffect on race (or gender; see Figure 3). Our results suggest that adaptation to a social facial dimension is not enhanced by attending to that dimension.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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