Adaptation improves face trustworthiness discrimination

B D Keefe, M Dzhelyova, D I Perrett, N E Barraclough

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Adaptation to facial characteristics, such as gender and viewpoint, has been shown to both bias our perception of faces and improve facial discrimination. In this study, we examined whether adapting to two levels of face trustworthiness improved sensitivity around the adapted level. Facial trustworthiness was manipulated by morphing between trustworthy and untrustworthy prototypes, each generated by morphing eight trustworthy and eight untrustworthy faces, respectively. In the first experiment, just-noticeable differences (JNDs) were calculated for an untrustworthy face after participants adapted to an untrustworthy face, a trustworthy face, or did not adapt. In the second experiment, the three conditions were identical, except that JNDs were calculated for a trustworthy face. In the third experiment we examined whether adapting to an untrustworthy male face improved discrimination to an untrustworthy female face. In all experiments, participants completed a two-interval forced-choice (2-IFC) adaptive staircase procedure, in which they judged which face was more untrustworthy. JNDs were derived from a psychometric function fitted to the data. Adaptation improved sensitivity to faces conveying the same level of trustworthiness when compared to no adaptation. When adapting to and discriminating around a different level of face trustworthiness there was no improvement in sensitivity and JNDs were equivalent to those in the no adaptation condition. The improvement in sensitivity was found to occur even when adapting to a face with different gender and identity. These results suggest that adaptation to facial trustworthiness can selectively enhance mechanisms underlying the coding of facial trustworthiness to improve perceptual sensitivity. These findings have implications for the role of our visual experience in the decisions we make about the trustworthiness of other individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number358
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Keefe, Dzhelyova, Perrett and Barraclough. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc. - See more at:


  • Face
  • Adaptation

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