The underlying specificity of visual object categorization and discrimination can be elucidated by studying different types of repetition priming. Here we focused on this issue in face processing. We investigated category priming (i.e. the prime and target stimuli represent different exemplars of the same object category) and item priming (i.e. the prime and target stimuli are exactly the same image), using an immediate repetition paradigm. Twenty-three subjects were asked to respond as fast and accurately as possible to categorize whether the target stimulus was a face or a building image, but to ignore the prime stimulus. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) and reaction times (RTs) simultaneously. The RT data showed significant effects of category priming in both face trials and building trials, as well as a significant effect of item priming in face trials. With respect to the ERPs, in face trials, no priming effect was observed at the P100 stage, whereas a category priming effect emerged at the N170 stage, and an item priming effect at the P200 stage. In contrast, in building trials, priming effects occurred already at the P100 stage. Our results indicated that distinct neural mechanisms underlie separable kinds of immediate repetition priming in face processing.
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