fMRI repetition suppression reveals no sensitivity to trait judgments from faces in face perception or theory-of-mind networks

Emily E. Butler, Rob Ward, Paul E. Downing, Richard Ramsey*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The human face cues a wealth of social information, but the neural mechanisms that underpin social attributions from faces are not well known. In the current fMRI experiment, we used repetition suppression to test the hypothesis that populations of neurons in face perception and theory-of-mind neural networks would show sensitivity to faces that cue distinct trait judgments. Although faces were accurately discriminated based on associated traits, our results showed no evidence that face or theory-of-mind networks showed repetition suppression for face traits. Thus, we do not provide evidence for population coding models of face perception that include sensitivity to high and low trait features. Due to aspects of the experimental design, which bolstered statistical power and sensitivity, we have reasonable confidence that we could detect effects of a moderate size, should they exist. The null findings reported here, therefore, add value to models of neural organisation in social perception by showing instances where effects are absent or small. To test the generalisability of our findings, future work should test different types of trait judgment and different types of facial stimuli, in order to further probe the neurobiological bases of impression formation based on facial appearance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201237
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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