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Visual experience supports haptic face recognition: Evidence from the early- and late-blind

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http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons83892

Dopjans,  L
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84298

Wallraven,  C
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons83839

Bülthoff,  HH
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Dopjans, L., Wallraven, C., & Bülthoff, H. (2009). Visual experience supports haptic face recognition: Evidence from the early- and late-blind. Poster presented at 10th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2009), New York, NY, USA.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-C42B-9
Abstract
In previous experiments, we provided further evidence that the haptic and visual systems both have the capacity to process faces, and that face information can be shared across sensory modalities [1]. Interestingly, we found this information transfer across modalities to be asymmetric and limited by haptic face processing. Visual face perception relies on specific processes that evolve with perceptual expertise, while we have little to no training in haptic face recognition throughout life. We, therefore, suggest that the observed asymmetry in visual and haptic face processing might be attributed to different levels of expertise. To test the importance of visual experience with faces also for haptic recognition we studied haptic face recognition in the early-blind (N=10), late-blind (N=9) and sighted (N=18). Participants performed an old/new recognition task for which sets of three faces were learned haptically, followed by three subsequent haptic test-blocks. We found that early-blind participants could recognize faces haptically, although recognition accuracy was low (d’= 0.83). More interestingly, however, recognition accuracy was significantly better in late-blind (d’=1.56) as well as sighted (d’=1.42) participants. Our results, therefore, suggest that behavioral benefits in haptic face recognition require visual experience with faces. A lack thereof cannot be compensated for by purely perceptual haptic expertise as the results for the early-blind show. These findings suggest that haptic face recognition can recruit specific visual processing mechanisms that are shaped by visual experience [2].