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CA Conway, BC Jones, LM DeBruine, AC Little & A Sahraie (2008). Transient pupil constrictions to faces are sensitive to orientation and species. Journal of Vision, 8(3): 17. doi: 10.1167/8.3.17

Previous studies have reported transient pupil constrictions to basic visual attributes (e.g., color and movement) that are processed along the ventral and the dorsal pathways. Specific cortical areas are activated more for faces than most other types of stimuli, raising the possibility that stimulus-specific transient pupil constrictions might also occur for faces. Such pupil responses may be sensitive to stimulus orientation and species since these parameters have been found to affect electrophysiological and behavioral responses to faces. Here we show transient pupil constrictions to upright human faces that are greater than those to scrambled versions, inverted versions, or macaque monkey faces. Similar to findings from electrophysiological studies, the inversion effect occurred for human faces but not macaque faces. Collectively, our findings show that transient pupil constrictions to faces are sensitive to the same parameters that have been found to influence electrophysiological and behavioral measures of face processing (i.e., orientation and species) and thus reveal a novel, objective, and non-invasive method for studying face perception.

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