Neural mechanisms underlying fast face category and identity processing

dc.contributor.authorCampbell, Alison
dc.contributor.supervisorTanaka, James William of Psychologyen_US of Philosophy Ph.D.en_US
dc.description.abstractGiven the ecological importance of face recognition, it is not surprising that the visual system is capable of processing faces with remarkable efficiency. When presented with a face, information is rapidly extracted to detect and categorize it as a face, followed by face-specific information such as age, gender, and identity. According to cognitive and neural models, the processes underlying face recognition encompass a sequence of steps that begin with a perceptual or visual analysis followed by more image-invariant and identity-selective representations. Importantly, it is only familiar faces for which we have acquired long-term face memories that reach the final stages of identity processing to permit robust, image-invariant behavioural recognition. A key aspect of face processing is that it is fast and automatic. This can be said for both high-level categorization (i.e., detecting that a stimulus is a face) and for encoding at the identity-level. The purpose of these experiments was to use novel electrophysiological and psychophysical techniques to characterize these fast and automatic categorization processes. Experiment 1 and 2 used an implicit visual discrimination paradigm (fast periodic visual stimulation; FPVS) combined with electroencephalography (EEG) to isolate identity-specific neural responses to a personally familiar face, the own-face, and an unfamiliar stranger face. Experiment 1 showed that identity-specific responses recorded over the occipito-temporal region were stronger for a personally familiar face compared to the unfamiliar control identity, while the response to the own-face was even greater than to a personally familiar friend. In Experiment 2, identity-specific responses for a given identity were measured in participants both before and after real-world familiarization. As expected, the results showed a significant increase in the identity-specific response once participants became personally familiar with the test identities. In Experiment 3, we used saccadic eye movements to estimate the lower bounds of the speed of face categorization, and in particular to investigate the question of whether this categorization occurs during early feedforward processing. The results support the view that information needed to detect and selectively respond to face stimuli happens during the earliest visual processing. Collectively, these studies provide additional insight on the mechanisms underlying rapid and automatic face detection and face identity recognition.en_US
dc.rightsAvailable to the World Wide Weben_US
dc.subjectface recognitionen_US
dc.subjectconscious perceptionen_US
dc.subjectface detectionen_US
dc.titleNeural mechanisms underlying fast face category and identity processingen_US


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