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Janice Murray, Ted Ruffman, Jamin Halberstadt; Age-related changes in face processing. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):196. doi: 10.1167/8.6.196.
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Older adults show compromised face recognition. One reason may be that ageing results in changes in the ability to encode configural information (e.g, the spatial relations among parts of a face). This possibility was investigated in a bizarreness-rating paradigm. Using a scale from 1(normal) to 7 (bizarre), participants rated normal unaltered faces, and faces that had undergone changes to either spatial-relational properties (eyes and mouth inverted) or component properties (eyes whitened or teeth blackened), presented in different orientations. For unaltered and component-distortion faces, bizarreness ratings increased linearly as orientation increased from 0° to 180°, and did not differ with age. For spatially distorted faces, a number of significant age-related differences were observed. All participants' bizarreness ratings decreased with increasing departures from upright and showed a discontinuity in the function relating orientation and bizarreness between 90° and 120°. However, older adults differed from younger adults in rating spatially distorted faces as less bizarre across all orientations, and this difference was significantly greater in the post-continuity relative to the pre-discontinuity portion of the rating curve. Furthermore, in contrast to younger adults, older adults' ratings of spatially distorted faces and unaltered faces at 180 degrees did not differ significantly. These results suggest that age may bring decreased sensitivity to holistic and local configural information in faces.
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