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


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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Available from: Heinrich H Bülthoff, Apr 04, 2014
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    • "Conducting studies with information rich displays that closely approximate naturalistic stimuli should be an important priority for researchers interested in face processing, as much of the existing literature in this area has utilized static displays. Studies incorporating moving faces or whole bodies—viewed in isolation or in the context of real-world scenes—are providing new insights into how we process social information (e.g., O'Toole et al., 2011; Pilz et al., 2011; Stoesz and Jakobson, 2013). In our lab, for example , we have used a Garner interference paradigm (Garner, 1976) to study how interference between the processing of facial identity and facial expression changes with the introduction of dynamic cues (Stoesz and Jakobson, 2013). "
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    • "While controlling for context effects and extra retinal-information that accompanies real world motion, the retinal size manipulation allowed us to more closely examine the situation where an object is receding from or approaching an observer as she stays in the same location. Stimuli approaching an observer – looming – has known effects on other domains of cognitive processing (Maier et al., 2004) and face processing (Pilz et al., 2011). "
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