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Pawan Sinha; Face classification following long-term visual deprivation. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):104. doi: 10.1167/3.9.104.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The influence of early visual experience on the development of human face processing skills is a topic of much scientific and applied significance, but experimental data on this issue is scarce. A few studies have reported profound impairments in face recognition following early visual deprivation. However, it is unknown how extended visual deprivation influences performance on the more basic task of face versus non-face classification. Here we report studies with two children, both of whom suffered from congenital blindness lasting at least the first 7 years of life. We assessed their face classification skills following surgical restoration of sight. For one child, the experiments were performed 1.5 months after surgery and for the other, four years post-surgery. Our results indicate that these children are able to detect faces and distinguish them from distracters with high reliability comparable to control subjects. Furthermore, this ability appears to be based on the use of overall facial configuration rather than individual features — a finding that presents an interesting contrast to the hypothesis of piecemeal processing used to explain impairments in face identification. These findings have implications for the nature of face-concept learning schemes in human and computational vision systems.
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