Metacognition of average face perception

Luyan JI*, William G. HAYWARD

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals have the ability to extract summary statistics from multiple items presented simultaneously. However, it is unclear yet whether we have insight into the process of ensemble coding. The aim of this study was to investigate metacognition about average face perception. Participants saw a group of four faces presented for 2 s or 5 s, and then they were asked to judge whether the following test face was present in the previous set (Experiment 1), or whether the test face was the average of the four member faces (Experiment 2). After each response, participants rated their confidence. Replicating previous findings, there was substantial endorsement for the average face derived from the four member faces in Experiment 1, even though it was not present in the set. When judging faces that had been presented in the set, confidence correlated positively with accuracy, providing evidence for metacognitive awareness of previously studied faces. Importantly, there was a negative confidence-accuracy relationship for judging average faces when duration was 2 s, and a near-zero relationship when duration was 5 s. By contrast, when the average face had to be identified explicitly in Experiment 2, performance was above chance level and there was a positive correlation between confidence and accuracy. These results suggest that people have metacognitive awareness about average face perception when averaging is required explicitly, but they lack insight into the averaging process when member identification is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1048
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number3
Early online date11 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Robson Chow and Natasha Banger for stimuli preparation and data collection. This work was supported by a grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (HKU17608519).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Face perception
  • Perceptual categorization and identification
  • Visual awareness


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