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Faces, people and the brain: the 45th Sir Frederic Bartlett lecture

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JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Oct 2017
Original languageEnglish


The fact that the face is a source of diverse social signals allows us to use face and person perception as a model system for asking important psychological questions about how our brains are organised. A key issue concerns whether we rely primarily on some form of generic representation of the common physical source of these social signals (the face) to interpret them, or instead create multiple representations by assigning different aspects of the task to different specialist components. Variants of the specialist components hypothesis have formed the dominant theoretical perspective on face perception for more than three decades, but despite this dominance of formally and informally expressed theories the underlying principles and extent of any division of labour remain uncertain. Here, I discuss three important sources of constraint. First, the evolved structure of the brain. Second, the need to optimise responses to different everyday tasks. Third, the statistical structure of faces in the perceiver's environment. I show how these constraints interact to determine the underlying functional organisation of face and person perception.

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