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Michelle P. S. To, Katherine M. Carvey, Richard J. Carvey, Chang Hong Liu; Averaging sets of expressive faces is modulated by eccentricity. Journal of Vision 2019;19(11):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.11.2.
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Research has shown that participants can extract the average facial expression from a set of faces when these were presented at fixation. In this study, we investigated whether this performance would be modulated by eccentricity given that neural resources are limited outside the foveal region. We also examined whether or not there would be compulsory averaging in the parafovea as has been previously reported for the orientation of Gabor patches by Parkes, Lund, Angelucci, Solomon, and Morgan (2001). Participants were presented with expressive faces (alone or in sets of nine, at fixation or at 3° to the left or right) and were asked to identify the expression of the central target face or to estimate the average expression of the set. Our results revealed that, although participants were able to extract average facial expressions in central and parafoveal conditions, their performance was superior in the parafovea, suggesting facilitated averaging outside the fovea by peripheral mechanisms. Furthermore, regardless of whether the task was to judge the expression of the central target or set average, participants had a tendency to identify central targets' expressions in the fovea but were compelled to average in the parafovea, a finding consistent with compulsory averaging. The data also supported averaging over substitution models of crowding. We conclude that the ability to extract average expressions in sets of faces and identify single targets' facial expressions is influenced by eccentricity.
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