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Patricia Costello; The perception of age in human faces: Upright & inverted results. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):512. doi: 10.1167/7.9.512.
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Faces convey a substantial amount of information about their owners including emotional state, gender, and age. Perception of age plays an important role in how we interact socially with others. Although face processing continues to be intensely researched, the factors involved in the perception of age have been largely ignored. Any theory of face recognition is incomplete without an understanding of age perception since age is an important facial characteristic. This study seeks to understand how people's age and gender influence their age judgment of an unknown face. Age estimation accuracy was also assessed for two different exposure times in order to determine how much viewing time is needed to best estimate age. College age participants viewed male and female faces ranging from 20 to 80 years old for either 100ms or 1000ms and estimated how old each face was. All participants also categorized the faces as “young” or “old” based on their individual criteria. A second inverted condition was added for the 100ms exposure time in order to investigate a possible face inversion effect in age perception. In general, participants were more accurate for their own age group and less accurate for older faces. Both males and females were more accurate for male faces, but accuracy was high even at 100ms exposures. Participants were more likely to underestimate older faces in the inverted compared to the upright condition. Male participants considered females “old” after the age of 35, while females considered both males and females “old” after about age 50. These findings could be interpreted using an evolutionary psychology framework.
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