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Similar Faces Show Object-like Categorization
Christopher D’Lauro (University of Colorado), Jim Tanaka (University of Victoria), and Tim Curran (University of Colorado) have now shown that faces take longer to recognize in the context of similar-looking faces. Previously, it had been thought that faces were a special stimulus class where individuation did not take longer than categorization, in contrast to other objects. This work, undertaken through the Perceptual Expertise Network, was funded through NSF’s Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center, and addresses core issues concerning the timing of visual recognition. It had previously been established that people were quicker to categorize objects at the basic level (e.g. DOG) than the subordinate level (e.g. COLLIE), but were equally quick to identify people at either level (e.g. HUMAN or JERRY SEINFELD). This temporal equality of faces at both levels is referred to as the subordinate level shift. However, in the current experiments, the authors used pictures of celebrities to demonstrate a subordinate level shift among diverse faces but not among similar faces. These results suggest that common processes underlie recognition of faces and other objects. Practically, these results have implications for understanding neuropsychological disorders that show selective deficits in identifying faces versus other objects.