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Title: General and own-species attentional face biases
Humans demonstrate enhanced processing of human faces compared with animal faces, known as own-species bias. This bias is important for identifying people who may cause harm, as well as for recognizing friends and kin. However, growing evidence also indicates a more general face bias. Faces have high evolutionary importance beyond conspecific interactions, as they aid in detecting predators and prey. Few studies have explored the interaction of these biases together. In three experiments, we explored processing of human and animal faces, compared with each other and to nonface objects, which allowed us to examine both own-species and broader face biases. We used a dot-probe paradigm to examine human adults’ covert attentional biases for task-irrelevant human faces, animal faces, and objects. We replicated the own-species attentional bias for human faces relative to animal faces. We also found an attentional bias for animal faces relative to objects, consistent with the proposal that faces broadly receive privileged processing. Our findings suggest that humans may be attracted to a broad class of faces. Further, we found that while participants rapidly attended to human faces across all cue display durations, they attended to animal faces only when they had sufficient time to process them. Our more » findings reveal that the dot-probe paradigm is sensitive for capturing both own-species and more general face biases, and that each has a different attentional signature, possibly reflecting their unique but overlapping evolutionary importance. « less
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Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Face perception abilities in humans exhibit a marked expertise in distinguishing individual human faces at the expense of individual faces from other species (the other-species effect). In particular, one behavioural effect of such specialization is that human adults search for and find categories of non-human faces faster and more accurately than a specific non-human face, and vice versa for human faces. However, a recent visual search study showed that neural responses (event-related potentials, ERPs) were identical when finding either a non-human or human face. We used time-resolved multivariate pattern analysis of the EEG data from that study to investigate the dynamics of neural representations during a visual search for own-species (human) or other-species (non-human ape) faces, with greater sensitivity than traditional ERP analyses. The location of each target (i.e., right or left) could be decoded from the EEG, with similar accuracy for human and non-human faces. However, the neural patterns associated with searching for an exemplar versus a category target differed for human faces compared to non-human faces: Exemplar representations could be more reliably distinguished from category representations for human than non-human faces. These findings suggest that the other-species effect modulates the nature of representations, but preserves the attentionalmore »selection of target items based on these representations.

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