ERP evidence for task modulations on face perceptual processing at different spatial scales

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Does the perceptual processing of faces flexibly adapt to the requirements of the categorization task at hand, or does it operate independently of this cognitive context? Behavioral studies have shown that the fine and coarse spatial scales of a face are differentially processed depending on the categorization task performed, thus suggesting that the latter can influence stimulus perception. Here, we investigated the time course of these task influences on perceptual processing by examining the visual N170 face-sensitive Event-Related Potential (ERP), while observers categorized faces for their gender and familiarity. Stimuli were full spectrum, or filtered versions that preserved either coarse or fine scale information of the faces. Behavioral results replicated previous findings of a differential processing of coarse and fine spatial scales across tasks. In addition, the N170 amplitude was larger in the Gender task as compared to the Familiarity task for LSF faces exclusively, thus showing that task demands differentially modulated the spatial scale processing on faces. These results suggest that the diagnosticity of scale-specific cues in categorization tasks can modulate face processing. © 2003 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. All rights reserved.




Goffaux, V., Jemel, B., Jacques, C., Rossion, B., & Schyns, P. G. (2003). ERP evidence for task modulations on face perceptual processing at different spatial scales. Cognitive Science, 27(2), 313–325.

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