Please join Bilkent University’s Psychology Department on Friday for the virtual visit of Prof. Ian McLaren.
Speaker: Ian McLaren, University of Exeter
“Recent Advances in Perceptual Learning: Applications to Face Recognition”
Date: Friday, 3 December 2021
***This is an online event. To obtain Zoom link and password, please contact to the department.
Abstract: For a long time, psychologists have debated whether faces are or are not special. On the one hand, there are focal areas in the brain that seem to be at least somewhat face-specific (e.g. the FFA), and there are behavioural effects (e.g. inversion effects) that are robust, reliable and seem to apply particularly to faces. But on the other hand, there are a set of results that imply that faces are not special, and that they are simply one instance of the application of a domain-general mechanism that makes us expert at discriminating certain types of stimuli given enough experience with them (perceptual learning). The debate is still ongoing, and at times seems incapable of resolution, but that is what I will attempt to do in this talk. I will report a number of experiments with faces and other stimuli (chequerboards) that support the expertise account and argue for a domain-general component to face recognition that is based on an associative mechanism for perceptual learning. But I will also show that this is not enough to explain all the data, and that there is something else that needs to be added if we are to fully understand how we process faces and other stimuli. The data used to substantiate these claims will make use of a novel form of neurostimulation we have developed that can modulate representations online in such a fashion as to either degrade or enhance our face recognition skills. Using this, in combination with our behavioural paradigms, we believe we have established that the answer to the question of whether faces are special is “yes – and no!”.
About the speaker: Ian McLaren Studied Natural Sciences at King’s College, Cambridge and won the Passingham Prize for finals in Experimental Psychology in 1985. He then studied for his PhD under the joint supervision on Stephen Monsell and Nick Mackintosh (also while at King’s) and was awarded his doctorate in 1990 for a thesis on “Representation and Association”. This was followed by a spell as a Fellow at King’s, then a Lecturer at the University of Warwick, before returning to Cambridge in 1994 as a Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer and Fellow of Emmanuel College. He moved to a Chair at the University of Exeter in 2007 to become Professor of Cognitive Psychology. Since then he has served as Deputy Head of School, Head of School and Group Lead for Cognition.