September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Meta-analyses support the expertise hypothesis of the right fusiform face area
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Edwin J Burns
    Department of Psychology, University of Richmond
  • Cindy Bukach
    Department of Psychology, University of Richmond
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 115a. doi:
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      Edwin J Burns, Cindy Bukach; Meta-analyses support the expertise hypothesis of the right fusiform face area. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):115a.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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This year is the 20th anniversary of the first fMRI paper that reported non-face effects related to visual expertise in the right fusiform face area (FFA). This finding helped generate numerous conceptual replications over the next two decades, which lent support to the notion that the right FFA is responsible for the individuation of certain non-face objects. Despite this evidence, the expertise hypothesis has been repeatedly criticised for basing its assumptions upon studies that suffer from small participant numbers, small effects, and statistically significant p-values that are close to .05. An additional criticism is that these findings are difficult to replicate. A modern reader familiar with the replication crisis may therefore question whether the FFA’s expertise effect is real. Recently developed meta-analytic techniques allow researchers to assess the evidential value for any given effect. We therefore put the literature to the test by running a series of meta-analyses on all eligible papers; from our search, we found 30 papers that showed non-face effects in the right FFA versus only six that did not. From the identified papers, 18 met the criteria to be included in our meta-analyses. Contrary to the aforementioned criticisms, our analyses confirmed that the right FFA’s expertise effect is based upon evidential value, and thus, likely to be replicable. In summary, the literature supports a domain-general role for the right FFA, with our meta-analyses complementing recent neuropsychological work showing the FFA’s functional contribution to object recognition.

Acknowledgement: The James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholars Award for Understanding Human Cognition and the MacEldin Trawick Endowed Professorship of Psychology 

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