Kok2015_Experiment2CELEB_raw from Face familiarity promotes stable identity recognition: exploring face perception using serial dependence

Studies suggest that familiar faces are processed in a manner distinct from unfamiliar faces and that familiarity with a face confers an advantage in identity recognition. Our visual system seems to capitalize on experience to build stable face representations that are impervious to variation in retinal input that may occur due to changes in lighting, viewpoint, viewing distance, eye movements, etc. Emerging evidence also suggests that our visual system maintains a continuous perception of a face's identity from one moment to the next despite the retinal input variations through serial dependence. This study investigates whether interactions occur between face familiarity and serial dependence. In two experiments, participants used a continuous scale to rate attractiveness of unfamiliar and familiar faces (either experimentally learned or famous) presented in rapid sequences. Both experiments revealed robust inter-trial effects in which attractiveness ratings for a given face depended on the preceding face's attractiveness. This inter-trial attractiveness effect was most pronounced for unfamiliar faces. Indeed, when participants were familiar with a given face, attractiveness ratings showed significantly less serial dependence. These results represent the first evidence that familiar faces can resist the temporal integration seen in sequential dependencies and highlight the importance of familiarity to visual cognition.