Walk this way: approaching bodies can influence the processing of faces.

Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany.
Cognition (Impact Factor: 3.63). 11/2010; 118(1):17-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.09.004
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A highly familiar type of movement occurs whenever a person walks towards you. In the present study, we investigated whether this type of motion has an effect on face processing. We took a range of different 3D head models and placed them on a single, identical 3D body model. The resulting figures were animated to approach the observer. In a first series of experiments, we used a sequential matching task to investigate how the motion of an approaching person affects immediate responses to faces. We compared observers' responses following approach sequences to their performance with figures walking backwards (receding motion) or remaining still. Observers were significantly faster in responding to a target face that followed an approach sequence, compared to both receding and static primes. In a second series of experiments, we investigated long-term effects of motion using a delayed visual search paradigm. After studying moving or static avatars, observers searched for target faces in static arrays of varying set sizes. Again, observers were faster at responding to faces that had been learned in the context of an approach sequence. Together these results suggest that the context of a moving body influences face processing, and support the hypothesis that our visual system has mechanisms that aid the encoding of behaviourally-relevant and familiar dynamic events.

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