Adaptation aftereffects reveal how categorization training changes the encoding of face identity

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Previous research suggests that learning to categorize faces along a novel dimension changes the perceptual representation of such dimension, increasing its discriminability, its invariance, and the information used to identify faces varying along the dimension. A common interpretation of these results is that categorization training promotes the creation of novel dimensions, rather than simply the enhancement of already existing representations. Here, we trained a group of participants to categorize faces that varied along two morphing dimensions, one of them relevant to the categorization task and the other irrelevant to the task. An untrained group did not receive such categorization training. In three experiments, we used face adaptation aftereffects to explore how categorization training changes the encoding of face identities at the extremes of the category-relevant dimension and whether such training produces encoding of the category-relevant dimension as a preferred direction in face space. The pattern of results suggests that categorization training enhances the already existing norm-based coding of face identity, rather than creating novel category-relevant representations. We formalized this conclusion in a model that explains the most important results in our experiments and serves as a working hypothesis for future work in this area.



categorization, face identity, face encoding, adaptation