Behavioral and neural markers of social vision [article]

Etienne Abassi, Liuba Papeo
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Research on face perception has revealed highly specialized visual mechanisms such as configural processing, and provided markers of interindividual differences -including disease risks and alterations- in visuoperceptual abilities that traffic in social cognition. Is face perception unique in degree or kind of mechanisms, and in its relevance for social cognition? Combining fMRI and behavioral methods, we address the processing of an uncharted class of socially relevant stimuli: minimal social
more » ... scenes involving configurations of two bodies spatially close and face-to-face. We report category-specific activity for facing (vs. non-facing) two-body configurations in visual cortex. That activity shows face-like signatures of configural processing -i.e., stronger response and greater susceptibility to stimulus inversion for facing (vs. non-facing) dyads-, and is predicted by performance-based measures of body-dyad perception. Moreover, individual performance in body-dyad perception is reliable, stable-over-time and correlated with the individual social sensitivity, coarsely captured by the Autism-Spectrum Quotient. Further analyses clarify the relationship between single-body and body-dyad perception. We propose that facing dyads are processed with the same high specialization of the most biologically/socially relevant stimuli: faces. Like face perception, facing-dyad perception can provide a measure of basic (visual) processes that lay the foundations for understanding others, their relationships and interactions.
doi:10.1101/2021.06.09.447707 fatcat:s2j62k7cindhrfbwi7tnb7awmi