Absence of sex-contingent gaze direction aftereffects suggests a limit to contingencies in face aftereffects

Nadine Kloth, Gillian Rhodes, S.R. Schweinberger

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© 2015 Kloth, Rhodes and Schweinberger. Face aftereffects (e.g., expression aftereffects) can be simultaneously induced in opposite directions for different face categories (e.g., male and female faces). Such aftereffects are typically interpreted as indicating that distinct neural populations code the categories on which adaptation is contingent, e.g., male and female faces. Moreover, they suggest that these distinct populations selectively respond to variations in the secondary stimulus dimension, e.g., emotional expression. However, contingent aftereffects have now been reported for so many different combinations of face characteristics, that one might question this interpretation. Instead, the selectivity might be generated during the adaptation procedure, for instance as a result of associative learning, and not indicate pre-existing response selectivity in the face perception system. To alleviate this concern, one would need to demonstrate some limit to contingent aftereffects. Here, we report a clear limit, showing that gaze direction aftereffects are not contingent on face sex. We tested 36 young Caucasian adults in a gaze adaptation paradigm. We initially established their ability to discriminate the gaze direction of male and female test faces in a pre-adaptation phase. Afterwards, half of the participants adapted to female faces looking left and male faces looking right, and half adapted to the reverse pairing. We established the effects of this adaptation on the perception of gaze direction in subsequently presented male and female test faces. We found that adaptation induced pronounced gaze direction aftereffects, i.e., participants were biased to perceive small gaze deviations to both the left and right as direct. Importantly, however, aftereffects were identical for male and female test faces, showing that the contingency of face sex and gaze direction participants experienced during the adaptation procedure had no effect.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1829
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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