Sex-contingent face aftereffects depend on perceptual category rather than structural encoding

P. E G Bestelmeyer, Benedict C. Jones, L. M. DeBruine, A. C. Little, D. I. Perrett, A. Schneider, L. L M Welling, C. A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (SciVal)


Many studies have used visual adaptation to investigate how recent experience with faces influences perception. While faces similar to those seen during adaptation phases are typically perceived as more 'normal' after adaptation, it is possible to induce aftereffects in one direction for one category (e.g. female) and simultaneously induce aftereffects in the opposite direction for another category (e.g. male). Such aftereffects could reflect 'category-contingent' adaptation of neurons selective for perceptual category (e.g. male or female) or 'structure-contingent' adaptation of lower-level neurons coding the physical characteristics of different face patterns. We compared these explanations by testing for simultaneous opposite after effects following adaptation to (a) two groups of faces from distinct sex categories (male and female) or (b) two groups of faces from the same sex category (female and hyper-female) where the structural differences between the female and hyper-female groups were mathematically identical to those between male and female groups. We were able to induce opposite aftereffects following adaptation between sex categories but not after adaptation within a sex category. These findings indicate the involvement of neurons coding perceptual category in sex-contingent face aftereffects and cannot be explained by neurons coding only the physical aspects of face patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-365
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • Categorical perception
  • Contingent aftereffects
  • Face perception
  • Structural encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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