The effect of familiarity on behavioral oscillations in face perception

Xiaoyi Liu, David Melcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: Studies on behavioral oscillations demonstrate that visual sensitivity fluctuates over time and visual processing varies periodically, mirroring neural oscillations at the same frequencies. Do these behavioral oscillations reflect fixed and relatively automatic sensory sampling, or top-down processes such as attention or predictive coding? To disentangle these theories, the current study used a dual-target rapid serial visual presentation paradigm, where participants indicated the gender of a face target embedded in streams of distractors presented at 30 Hz. On critical trials, two identical targets were presented with varied stimulus onset asynchrony from 200 to 833 ms. The target was either familiar or unfamiliar faces, divided into different blocks. We found a 4.6 Hz phase-coherent fluctuation in gender discrimination performance across both trial types, consistent with previous reports. In addition, however, we found an effect at the alpha frequency, with behavioral oscillations in the familiar blocks characterized by a faster high-alpha peak than for the unfamiliar face blocks. These results are consistent with the combination of both a relatively stable modulation in the theta band and faster modulation of the alpha oscillations. Therefore, the overall pattern of perceptual sampling in visual perception may depend, at least in part, on task demands. Protocol registration: The stage 1 protocol for this Registered Report was accepted in principle on 16/08/2022. The protocol, as accepted by the journal, can be found at: .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10145
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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