Kramer, R. S. S., Ritchie, K. L., & Burton, A. M. (2015). Viewers extract the mean from sets of images of the same person: A route to face learning. Journal of Vision, 15(4), 1-9. Link

Research on ensemble encoding has found that viewers extract summary information from sets of similar items. When shown a set of four faces of different people, viewers merge identity information from the exemplars into a representation of the set average. Here, we presented sets containing unconstrained images of the same identity. In response to a subsequent probe, viewers recognized the exemplars accurately. However, they also reported having seen a merged average of these images. Importantly, viewers reported seeing the matching average of the set (the average of the four presented images) more often than a nonmatching average (an average of four other images of the same identity). These results were consistent for both simultaneous and sequential presentation of the sets. Our findings support previous research suggesting that viewers form representations of both the exemplars and the set average. Given the unconstrained nature of the photographs, we also provide further evidence that the average representation is invariant to several high-level characteristics.

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