The temporal advantage for individuating objects of expertise: Perceptual expertise is an early riser

Kim M. Curby*, Isabel Gauthier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The identification of faces has a temporal advantage over that of other object categories. The orientation-specific nature of this advantage suggests that it stems from our extensive experience and resulting expertise with upright faces. While experts can identify objects faster than novices, it is unclear exactly how the temporal dynamics of identification are changed by expertise and whether the nature of this temporal advantage is similar for face and non-face objects of expertise. Here, we titrated encoding time using a backward-masking paradigm with variable stimulus-mask onset-asynchronies and mapped the resulting effect on recognition for upright and inverted faces (Experiment 1) and for cars among car experts and car novices (Experiment 2). Performance for upright faces and cars among car experts rose above chance between 33 and 70 ms before that for inverted faces or cars among car novices. A shifted exponential function fitted to these data suggested that performance started to rise earlier for experts than for novices, but that additional encoding time increased performance at a similar rate. Experience influences the availability of information early in processing, possibly through the recruitment of more category-selective neurons, while the rate of perceptual processing may be less flexible and limited by inherent physiological constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


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