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Kate Crookes, Elinor McKone; Childhood improvements in face performance result from general cognitive development not changes in face perception: Evidence from faces versus objects, inversion and implicit memory. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):192. doi: 10.1167/8.6.192.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Despite the remarkable face processing abilities observed in infants, performance on face perception and memory tasks improves across childhood and into adolescence and fMRI reveals late changes in face-specific areas. The important question for understanding the developmental origins of face processing is: Why does performance on face tasks improve with age? There are two possible explanations: (1) the ‘special’ aspect of face perception (holistic processing) is developing due to extended experience with faces (face specific perceptual development theory) or (2) the improvement seen on face tasks is due entirely to the development of general cognitive factors (general cognitive development theory). Previous studies attempting to differentiate these two theories have suffered methodological issues (e.g., baseline differences across age groups, poorly matched comparison object class, differences in task difficulty across conditions). The present study presents converging evidence from three independent approaches. Experiment 1 showed recognition memory increased at the same rate for faces and a matched object class (Labrador dogs) from 5 years to adulthood. Experiment 2 showed there was no change the size of the disproportionate inversion effect on recognition memory for faces versus Labrador dogs between 7-year-olds and adults. Experiment 3 showed there was no change in implicit memory performance for unfamiliar faces between 5–6 years, 10–11 years and adults despite strong development of explicit memory. Taken together all three experiments strongly support the general cognitive development theory, and argue there is no development in face perception between early childhood and adulthood.
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