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Aftereffects Support Opponent Coding of Expression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-628
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Sep 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Mar 2017


We used aftereffects to investigate the coding mechanisms underlying our perception of facial expression. Recent evidence for dimensions that are common to the coding of both expression and identity suggest that the same coding system could be used for both attributes. Identity is adaptively opponent coded by pairs of neural populations tuned to opposite extremes of relevant dimensions. Therefore, we hypothesized that expression would also be opponent coded. An important line of support for opponent coding is that aftereffects increase with adaptor extremity (distance from an average test face) over the full natural range of possible faces. Previous studies have reported that expression aftereffects increase with adaptor extremity. Critically, however, they did not establish the extent of the natural range and so have not ruled out a decrease within that range that could indicate narrowband, multichannel coding. Here we show that expression aftereffects, like identity aftereffects, increase linearly over the full natural range of possible faces and remain high even for impossibly distorted adaptors. These results suggest that facial expression, like face identity, is opponent coded.

    Research areas

  • Face perception, expression perception, expression aftereffects, opponent coding

    Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception
  • Tactile Action Perception
  • Tobacco and Alcohol

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    Accepted author manuscript, 904 KB, PDF document


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