Symmetrical Viewpoint Representations in Face-Selective Regions Convey an Advantage in the Perception and Recognition of Faces.


Department of Psychology, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom, [Email]


Learning new identities is crucial for effective social interaction. A critical aspect of this process is the integration of different images from the same face into a view-invariant representation that can be used for recognition. The representation of symmetrical viewpoints has been proposed to be a key computational step in achieving view-invariance. The aim of this study was to determine whether the representation of symmetrical viewpoints in face-selective regions is directly linked to the perception and recognition of face identity. In Experiment 1, we measured fMRI responses while male and female human participants viewed images of real faces from different viewpoints (-90, -45, 0, 45, and 90° from full-face view). Within the face regions, patterns of neural response to symmetrical views (-45 and 45° or -90 and 90°) were more similar than responses to nonsymmetrical views in the fusiform face area and superior temporal sulcus, but not in the occipital face area. In Experiment 2, participants made perceptual similarity judgements to pairs of face images. Images with symmetrical viewpoints were reported as being more similar than nonsymmetric views. In Experiment 3, we asked whether symmetrical views also convey an advantage when learning new faces. We found that recognition was best when participants were tested with novel face images that were symmetrical to the learning viewpoint. Critically, the pattern of perceptual similarity and recognition across different viewpoints predicted the pattern of neural response in face-selective regions. Together, our results provide support for the functional value of symmetry as an intermediate step in generating view-invariant representations.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The recognition of identity from faces is crucial for successful social interactions. A critical step in this process is the integration of different views into a unified, view-invariant representation. The representation of symmetrical views (e.g., left profile and right profile) has been proposed as an important intermediate step in computing view-invariant representations. We found view symmetric representations were specific to some face-selective regions, but not others. We also show that these neural representations influence the perception of faces. Symmetric views were perceived to be more similar and were recognized more accurately than nonsymmetric views. Moreover, the perception and recognition of faces at different viewpoints predicted patterns of response in those face regions with view symmetric representations.



OUR Recent Articles