The role of experience-based perceptual learning in the face inversion effect
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Perceptual learning of the type we consider here is a consequence of experience with a class of stimuli. It amounts to an enhanced ability to discriminate between stimuli. We argue that it contributes to the ability to distinguish between faces and recognize individuals, and in particular contributes to the face inversion effect (better recognition performance for upright vs inverted faces). Previously, we have shown that experience with a prototype defined category of checkerboards leads to perceptual learning, that this produces an inversion effect, and that this effect can be disrupted by Anodal tDCS to Fp3 during pre-exposure. If we can demonstrate that the same tDCS manipulation also disrupts the inversion effect for faces, then this will strengthen the claim that perceptual learning contributes to that effect. The important question, then, is whether this tDCS procedure would significantly reduce the inversion effect for faces; stimuli that we have lifelong expertise with and for which perceptual learning has already occurred. Consequently, in the experiment reported here we investigated the effects of anodal tDCS at Fp3 during an old/new recognition task for upright and inverted faces. Our results show that stimulation significantly reduced the face inversion effect compared to controls. The effect was one of reducing recognition performance for upright faces. This result is the first to show that tDCS affects perceptual learning that has already occurred, disrupting individuals' ability to recognize upright faces. It provides further support for our account of perceptual learning and its role as a key factor in face recognition.
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