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Ana Bracovic, Adélaïde de Heering, Daphne Maurer; The Effect of Starting School on Preschoolers’ Ability to Recognize Child and Adult Faces. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):23. doi: 10.1167/12.9.23.
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Although rudimentary skills emerge during infancy (e.g., Morton & Johnson, 1991; Pascalis & de Schonen, 1995; Pascalis, de Haan, Nelson, & de Schonen, 1998), the recognition of facial identity improves into adolescence (Mondloch, Le Grand, & Maurer, 2002). Here we examined the influence of entering school on face recognition. We hypothesize that the increase in exposure to the faces of unfamiliar children that is associated with entering school may lead to improved face recognition for children’s faces. To test this hypothesis, we measured the face recognition abilities of preschoolers who began attending school for the first time in September 2010 (school group; n=18) and of an age-matched control group (n=18) not yet in school. Both groups completed a 2AFC task with adult and child faces, presented both in an upright and inverted orientation, at Time 1 (within the first month of entering school for the school group) and at Time 2 (5 months later). A repeated measures ANCOVA revealed a significant main effect of the covariate, age at Time 1, (p<.0001), reflecting better overall performance by older participants than younger participants. In addition, there was a significant interaction between time, age of face and group (p=.047) that resulted from a significant improvement between Time 1 and Time 2 for child faces in the school group (p<.0001), but not the control group (p=.118) and no significant improvement for adult faces in either group (ps<.4). The results suggest that sudden exposure to a large number of child faces during childhood improves recognition of novel exemplars of this face category. This exposure may shape a child’s face-space (see Valentine, 1991) by producing a more stable and accurate norm, as well as refining its dimensions so that they code better for the physical differences that covary reliably with identity.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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