Aftereffects Support Opponent Coding of Expression

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We used aftereffects to investigate the coding mechanisms underlying perception of facial expression. Recent evidence that some dimensions are common to the coding of both expression and identity suggests that the same type of coding system could be used for both attributes. Identity is adaptively opponent coded by pairs of neural populations tuned to opposite extremes of relevant dimensions. Therefore, the authors hypothesized that expression would also be opponent coded. An important line of support for opponent coding is that aftereffects increase with adaptor extremity (distance from an average test face) over the full natural range of possible faces. Previous studies have reported that expression aftereffects increase with adaptor extremity. Critically, however, they did not establish the extent of the natural range and so have not ruled out a decrease within that range that could indicate narrowband, multichannel coding. Here the authors show that expression aftereffects, like identity aftereffects, increase linearly over the full natural range of possible faces and remain high even for impossibly distorted adaptors. These results suggest that facial expression, like face identity, is opponent coded.

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