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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Jun 12;366(1571):1702-25. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0360.

Visual adaptation and face perception.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, , Reno, NV 89557, USA.


The appearance of faces can be strongly affected by the characteristics of faces viewed previously. These perceptual after-effects reflect processes of sensory adaptation that are found throughout the visual system, but which have been considered only relatively recently in the context of higher level perceptual judgements. In this review, we explore the consequences of adaptation for human face perception, and the implications of adaptation for understanding the neural-coding schemes underlying the visual representation of faces. The properties of face after-effects suggest that they, in part, reflect response changes at high and possibly face-specific levels of visual processing. Yet, the form of the after-effects and the norm-based codes that they point to show many parallels with the adaptations and functional organization that are thought to underlie the encoding of perceptual attributes like colour. The nature and basis for human colour vision have been studied extensively, and we draw on ideas and principles that have been developed to account for norms and normalization in colour vision to consider potential similarities and differences in the representation and adaptation of faces.

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