Mind perception: Real but not artificial faces sustain neural activity beyond the N170/VPP

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Abstract

Faces are visual objects that hold special significance as the icons of other minds. Previous researchers using event-related potentials (ERPs) have found that faces are uniquely associated with an increased N170/vertex positive potential (VPP) and a more sustained frontal positivity. Here, we examined the processing of faces as objects vs. faces as cues to minds by contrasting images of faces possessing minds (human faces), faces lacking minds (doll faces), and non-face objects (i.e., clocks). Although both doll and human faces were associated with an increased N170/VPP from 175-200 ms following stimulus onset, only human faces were associated with a sustained positivity beyond 400 ms. Our data suggest that the N170/VPP reflects the object-based processing of faces, whether of dolls or humans; on the other hand, the later positivity appears to uniquely index the processing of human faces--which are more salient and convey information about identity and the presence of other minds.

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Wheatley, T., Weinberg, A., Looser, C., Moran, T., & Hajcak, G. (2011). Mind perception: Real but not artificial faces sustain neural activity beyond the N170/VPP. PLoS ONE, 6(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0017960

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