Towards a model of human body perception
[S.l. : s.n.]
Number of pages
Bangor University, 17 februari 2020
Promotor : Downing, P.E. Co-promotor : Koldewyn, K.
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SW OZ DCC SMN
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
From just a glimpse of another person, we make inferences about their current states and longstanding traits. These inferences are normally spontaneous and effortless, yet they are crucial in shaping our impressions and behaviours towards other people. What are the perceptual operations involved in the rapid extraction of socially relevant information? To answer this question, over the last decade the visual and cognitive neuroscience of social stimuli has received new inputs through emerging proposals of social vision approaches. Perhaps by function of these contributions, researchers have reached a certain degree of consensus over a standard model of face perception. This thesis aims to extend social vision approaches to the case of human body perception. In doing so, it establishes the building blocks for a perceptual model of the human body which integrates the extraction of socially relevant information from the appearance of the body. Using visual tasks, the data show that perceptual representations of the human body are sensitive to socially relevant information (e.g. sex, weight, emotional expression). Specifically, in the first empirical chapter I dissect the perceptual representations of body sex. Using a visual search paradigm, I demonstrate a differential and asymmetrical representation of sex from human body shape. In the second empirical chapter, using the Garner selective attention task, I show that the dimension of body sex is independent from the information of emotional body postures. Finally, in the third empirical chapter, I provide evidence that category selective visual brain regions, including the body selective region EBA, are directly involved in forming perceptual expectations towards incoming visual stimuli. Socially relevant information of the body might shape visual representations of the body by acting as a set of expectancies available to the observer during perceptual operations. In the general discussion I address how the findings of the empirical chapters inform us about the perceptual encoding of human body shape. Further, I propose how these results provide the initial steps for a unified social vision model of human body perception. Finally, I advance the hypothesis that rapid social categorisation during perception is explained by mechanisms generally affecting the perceptual analysis of objects under naturalistic conditions (e.g. expectations-expertise) operating within the social domain.
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