Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
After looking at a photograph of someone for a protracted period (adaptation), a previously neutral-looking face can take on an opposite appearance in terms of gender, identity, and other attributes—but what happens to the appearance of other faces? Face aftereffects have repeatedly been ascribed to perceptual renormalization. Renormalization predicts that the adapting face and more extreme versions of it should appear more neutral after adaptation (e.g., if the adaptor was male, it and hyper-masculine faces should look more feminine). Other aftereffects, such as tilt and spatial frequency, are locally repulsive, exaggerating differences between adapting and test stimuli. This predicts that the adapting face should be little changed in appearance after adaptation, while more extreme versions of it should look even more extreme (e.g., if the adaptor was male, it should look unchanged, while hyper-masculine faces should look even more masculine). Existing reports do not provide clear evidence for either pattern. We overcame this by using a spatial comparison task to measure the appearance of stimuli presented in differently adapted retinal locations. In behaviorally matched experiments we compared aftereffect patterns after adapting to tilt, facial identity, and facial gender. In all three experiments data matched the predictions of a locally repulsive, but not a renormalizing, aftereffect. These data are consistent with the existence of similar encoding strategies for tilt, facial identity, and facial gender.