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Rebecca J. Von Der Heide, Michael J. Wenger, Rick O. Gilmore, Daniel B. Elbich; Developmental changes in encoding and the capacity to process face information.. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):450. doi: 10.1167/11.11.450.
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The question of whether there are developmental changes in the ability to encode and the capacity to process face information is the subject of ongoing debate. While a subset of studies in the developmental face perception literature suggests these aspects of face perception are mature early in childhood, other studies report age-related improvements on face perception tasks that have been interpreted as developmental changes in these abilities. Three alternative explanations suggest improvements in performance on face perception tasks could be the result of developmental changes in: (a) encoding face information (b) the capacity to process face information (c) quantitative rather than qualitative improvements in performance on face perception tasks. The present work used powerful theoretical frameworks capable of testing these three alternative hypotheses in a sample of children and adults (ages 6–22). First, theoretical constructs and measures from general recognition theory (GRT, Ashby & Townsend, 1986), a multidimensional generalization of unidimensional signal detection analyses, were used to test for developmental changes in holistic encoding across two tasks: (a) a composite face task (b) an inversion task. Critically, these experiments were within-subjects and stimuli were constructed from the same faces for both experiments. Second, a subset of the participants completed additional experiments in order to assess their capacity to process face information. In these experiments processing capacity was theoretically defined and measured using theoretical constructs and measures provided by systems factorial technology (SFT; Townsend & Nozawa, 1995) and the Cox Proportional Hazards Model (Cox, 1972). Overall, the results of these experiments provide strong within-subjects evidence of quantitative rather than qualitative changes in the ability to encode face information across development. In addition, developmental changes in the capacity to process face information were assessed within-subjects and interpreted with respect to the ability to encode face information.
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