Rhodes G I, Jeffery L, Watson T L, Clifford C W G, Nakayama K, 2002, "Averages and extremes in face perception" Perception 31 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Averages and extremes in face perception
G I Rhodes, L Jeffery, T L Watson, C W G Clifford, K Nakayama
Caricatures, which exaggerate the distinctive features of a face, are easy to recognise, but hard on the eye. These two effects suggest that the visual system might code faces as deviations from an average face, which is also an ideal face. Here we explore the role of norms (averages) in face perception by examining aftereffects of adaptation to distorted faces. We show that adaptation to a particular distortion shifts what looks normal (average) in the direction of the adapting distortion (Webster and MacLin, 1999 Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 6 647 - 653), and that this is accompanied by a corresponding shift in what looks most attractive. The aftereffects occur when the test faces are rotated 90° relative to the adapting faces (from 45° left to 45° right, or vice versa) suggesting that they result from adaptation in high-level neurons. We interpret the shift in optimal attractiveness that accompanies the shift in what is perceived as average as strong evidence that average faces are attractive.
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