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Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko, Daphne Maurer; The Effect of Early Visual Deprivation on the Development of Judgments of Attractiveness . Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1265. doi: 10.1167/14.10.1265.
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Adults find averaged faces that approximate the population mean to be more attractive than most other faces (Langlois & Roggman, 1990). By 3 months, infants appear to be able to form an average of faces they just saw (de Haan et al., 2001), but the influence of averageness on attractiveness judgments does not become as strong as in adults until after age 9 (Vingilis-Jaremko & Maurer, 2013). We investigated the importance of early visual experience by taking advantage of a rare condition: adults who were born with bilateral cataracts that blocked all patterned visual input until they were removed in the first year of life and the patient was given compensatory contact lenses. These adults experienced a period of visual deprivation during a sensitive period early in life for the development of many aspects of vision. We presented participants with pairs of faces that had been transformed toward and away from an average face of the same sex and asked them on each trial to select which face was more attractive. Averageness influenced the attractiveness judgments of adults treated for bilateral congenital cataracts, but to a lesser extent than in adults with normal vision. The data suggest that visual input early in life is necessary to set up the neural architecture that underlies the influence of averageness on adults' perception. That influence may be related to the establishment of a multi-dimensional 'face space' centred on a prototype face that is the mean of one's cumulative experience with faces (Valentine, 1991). The results are consistent with findings that cataract-reversal patients show less differentiation of upright and inverted faces (Le Grand et al., 2001) and have smaller-than-normal identity aftereffects. Together, the data suggest that early visual experience is necessary to form a normal face space centered on a veridical norm
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