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J Vis. 2008 Jan 4;8(1):1.1-20. doi: 10.1167/8.1.1.

Face adaptation does not improve performance on search or discrimination tasks.

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Department of Psychology, UCSD, San Diego, CA 92093, USA.


The face adaptation effect, as described by M. A. Webster and O. H. MacLin (1999), is a robust perceptual shift in the appearance of faces after a brief adaptation period. For example, prolonged exposure to Asian faces causes a Eurasian face to appear distinctly Caucasian. This adaptation effect has been documented for general configural effects, as well as for the facial properties of gender, ethnicity, expression, and identity. We began by replicating the finding that adaptation to ethnicity, gender, and a combination of both features induces selective shifts in category appearance. We then investigated whether this adaptation has perceptual consequences beyond a shift in the perceived category boundary by measuring the effects of adaptation on RSVP, spatial search, and discrimination tasks. Adaptation had no discernable effect on performance for any of these tasks.

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