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Galit Yovel, Keren Halsband, Yonatan Goshen; Dissociating between the role of exposure and individuation in perceptual expertise for faces. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):458. doi: 10.1167/9.8.458.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It is well documented that recognition of faces of other races is impaired relative to own-race faces. Two factors may underlie this other-race effect: the lack of exposure to other-race faces and/or the lack of opportunity to individuate specific faces in the other-race group. Because exposure and individuation usually operate together, it is not clear which of these factors is more critical. The goal of this study was to provide a clear dissociation between these exposure and individuation in order to assess their relative roles in face recognition abilities. To that end, we assessed recognition abilities for newborn faces. Similar to other-race faces, we are hardly exposed to newborn faces and do not individuate them as we do with adult faces. Consistent with the other-race effect, adult participants showed worse performance for newborn than adult faces in a delayed match-to-sample task. To examine the role of massive exposure without individuation, we tested neonatology nurses who are highly exposed to newborn faces but discouraged from individuating them based on facial features. Interestingly, recognition of newborn faces was not better in neonatology nurses than age-matched controls. These findings suggest that massive exposure without individuation is not sufficient for face recognition. In a second experiment, young students were presented with a 3-day individuation training of 12 newborn faces. This relatively brief training improved recognition abilities not only for the trained newborn faces but also for a novel set of newborn faces. Our findings show that passive exposure plays no role in the development of perceptual expertise for faces, whereas the act of individuation does improve face recognition even with minimal exposure. We conclude that it is the quality rather than the quantity of exposure that determines recognition abilities.
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