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Rebecca Von Der Heide, Michael Wenger, Rick Gilmore, Jennifer Howarth, Brianna Sullivan, Jennifer Bittner; Age-related differences in processing capacity for faces. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):191. doi: 10.1167/8.6.191.
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The ability to recognize a face is a skill that improves with age. There is evidence that these gradual improvements in performance are quantitative rather than qualitative, and have been interpreted as an increase in processing capacity (Itier & Taylor, 2004). We report results from a set of experiments designed to apply a precise, theoretically-motivated measure of capacity (Townsend & Nozawa, 1995) to this developmental question. The first step was to establish that these precise measures of processing capacity could be used successfully in developmental investigations since they had only been used in adult studies. More specifically, Experiment 1 addressed two important questions: (a) whether children could complete the large number of trials needed to effectively use these capacity measures; and (b) whether greater variability of children's response times would prevent clear inferences from being made about changes in processing capacity. To answer these questions we tested children and adults on a redundant target task similar to one implemented by Townsend and Nozawa (1995). To keep the experiment interesting for children, we told participants a story and included story-related feedback after each trial. Experiment 1 results replicated Townsend and Nozawa (1995) for adults, and demonstrated the feasibility of the experimental approach and the intepretability of the resulting data. The purpose of Experiment 2 was to use these measures to test the hypothesis that there are age-related changes in the capacity to process face information, specifically changes in configural and featural information. Taken together, this work suggests (a) precise measures of processing capacity are available to use in studies of children (b) a more precise and theoretically-driven account for age-related changes in the capacity to process faces was possible using these measures.
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