Adaptive face coding and discrimination around the average face

Gillian Rhodes, Laurence T. Maloney, Jenny Turner, Louise Ewing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptation paradigms highlight the dynamic nature of face coding and suggest that identity is coded relative to an average face that is tuned by experience. In low-level vision, adaptive coding can enhance sensitivity to differences around the adapted level. We investigated whether sensitivity to differences around the average face is similarly enhanced. Converging evidence from three paradigms showed no enhancement. Discrimination of small interocular spacing differences was not better for faces close to the average (Study 1). Nor was perceived similarity reduced for face pairs close to (spanning) the average (Study 2). On the contrary, these pairs were judged most similar. Maximum likelihood perceptual difference scaling (Studies 3 and 4) confirmed that sensitivity to differences was reduced, not enhanced, around the average. We conclude that adaptive face coding does not enhance discrimination around the average face.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)974-989
Number of pages16
JournalVision research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Adaptation
  • Average face
  • Discrimination
  • Face perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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