Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - FACE AND BRAIN (Functional Contributions of the Dorsal Stream to Human Face Recognition)

Face perception plays an important role in social life. This research explored two issues related to face perception. The first is about learning new faces. Prior research has shown that when people actively explore and inspect the three-dimensional views of a face during learning, their memory of the new face is better than seeing the same views passively. In this project, we studied how the brain may react differently when an actively explored face is tested. We recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) during the learning and test trials of a face matching experiment. Compared to the baseline condition, the brain signals revealed a stronger reaction at the occipital region shortly after the test face was presented. This finding reflects an early processing advantage for faces learned through an active exploration. We also observed a greater ERP activity over the inferior temporal area of the brain. This was particularly evident over the right hemisphere. This area and ERP component are associated with attention and face identity processing.

The second main issue in our research is about self-concept and how it affects self-face perception. It is well known that people from Western and Eastern cultures often have different ideas about the concept of self. Westerners tend to view the self as an autonomous entity, resulting in an independent self, whereas Easterners tend to emphasise the interconnectedness of human beings, resulting in an interdependent self. In a series of studies, we examined how this difference affects people's perception of their own face and their friend's face.

First, we found that British participants responded much faster to their own face relative to a familiar face. In contrast, the difference in our Chinese participants was reduced. Second, we found that the difference between perception of self-face and another person's face can be temporarily modified if people are encouraged to think in terms of independent or interdependent self. Finally, our ERP and fMRI results revealed a profound cultural influence on the neural substrates of these behaviours.

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United Kingdom
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