Getting oriented to faces and textures


The human visual system is capable of rapidly processing incoming signals for perceptual decisions. Observers are more practiced at identifying certain stimulus categories than others. For example, healthy observers are experts at face identification, and research in the last few years has finally begun to recognize that expertise in (upright) face identification is due to more efficient processing of the horizontally oriented structure of a face (i.e., a horizontal bias). Behavioural measures of horizontal bias have proven to be robust predictors of individual differences in face perception abilities, most notably overall face identification accuracy and the size of the face inversion effect. My research provides evidence that horizontal bias can also be measured using brain activity (EEG), and that differences in the time-course of this neural horizontal bias can inform us of face processing deficits in individuals with poor face perception abilities. In a related line of research, I show that naïve observers can be trained to exhibit orientation biased processing of a novel stimulus class. I further probe the characteristics of training-induced orientation biases and demonstrate that the paradigm may be a useful tool to evaluate the specificity of perceptual learning; indeed, perceptual learning is often plagued by highly specific training effects, and therefore understanding situations where learning is not specific makes perceptual learning a more appealing phenomenon in applied settings.

PNB Colloquium Series (McMaster)
Hamilton, Canada

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