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Perception. 2009;38(4):569-78.

Rapid orienting toward face-like stimuli with gaze-relevant contrast information.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK. tomalski@mac.com

Abstract

Human faces under natural illumination, and human eyes in their unique morphology, include specific contrast polarity relations that face-detection mechanisms could capitalise on. Newborns have been shown to preferentially orient to simple face-like patterns only when they contain face- or gaze-relevant contrast. We investigated whether human adults show similar preferential orienting towards schematic face-like stimuli, and whether this effect depends on the contrast polarity of the stimuli. In two experiments we demonstrate that upright schematic face-like patterns elicit faster eye movements in adult humans than inverted ones, and that this occurs only if they contain face- or gaze-relevant contrast information in the whole stimulus or in the eye region only. These results suggest that primitive mechanisms underlying the orienting bias towards faces and eyes influence and modulate social cognition not just in infants but in adults as well.

PMID:
19522324
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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