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J Vis. 2016 Dec 1;16(15):28. doi: 10.1167/16.15.28.

Serial dependence in the perception of attractiveness.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA,
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA,
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USAHelen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USAVision Science Group, University of California, Berkeley, CA,


The perception of attractiveness is essential for choices of food, object, and mate preference. Like perception of other visual features, perception of attractiveness is stable despite constant changes of image properties due to factors like occlusion, visual noise, and eye movements. Recent results demonstrate that perception of low-level stimulus features and even more complex attributes like human identity are biased towards recent percepts. This effect is often called serial dependence. Some recent studies have suggested that serial dependence also exists for perceived facial attractiveness, though there is also concern that the reported effects are due to response bias. Here we used an attractiveness-rating task to test the existence of serial dependence in perceived facial attractiveness. Our results demonstrate that perceived face attractiveness was pulled by the attractiveness level of facial images encountered up to 6 s prior. This effect was not due to response bias and did not rely on the previous motor response. This perceptual pull increased as the difference in attractiveness between previous and current stimuli increased. Our results reconcile previously conflicting findings and extend previous work, demonstrating that sequential dependence in perception operates across different levels of visual analysis, even at the highest levels of perceptual interpretation.

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