Individual Differences in Serial Dependence of Facial Identity are Associated with Face Recognition Abilities

Kaitlyn Turbett, Romina Palermo, Jason Bell, Jessamy Burton, Linda Jeffery

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Serial dependence is a perceptual bias where current perception is biased towards prior visual input. This bias occurs when perceiving visual attributes, such as facial identity, and has been argued to play an important functional role in vision, stabilising the perception of objects through integration. In face identity recognition, this bias could assist in building stable representations of facial identity. If so, then individual variation in serial dependence could contribute to face recognition ability. To investigate this possibility, we measured both the strength of serial dependence and the range over which individuals showed this bias (the tuning) in 219 adults, using a new measure of serial dependence of facial identity. We found that better face recognition was associated with stronger serial dependence and narrower tuning, that is, showing serial dependence primarily when sequential faces were highly similar. Serial dependence tuning was further found to be a significant predictor of face recognition abilities independently of both object recognition and face identity aftereffects. These findings suggest that the extent to which serial dependence is used selectively for similar faces is important to face recognition. Our results are consistent with the view that serial dependence plays a functional role in face recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18020
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019


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