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Goedele Van Belle, Jutta Billino, Bruno Rossion, Gudrun Schwarzer; The nature of 5-year-old children’s holistic face processing: Evidence from eye-gaze contingency. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):95. doi: 10.1167/13.9.95.
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Holistic processing of faces, the perception of facial parts as an integrated whole, is considered to be fundamental in adult face processing. Developmental studies suggest holistic processing to be already mature in 4-year-olds (de Heering, et al., 2007) and perhaps even in infants (Cashon & Cohen, 2001; Schwarzer et al., 2007). However, previous studies mainly investigated whether the position/context of single parts/face halves influences the perception of other parts/halves so that the current developmental evidence of holistic processing is rather indirect. Here we addressed this question by means of an eye-gaze contingency approach applied to face perception by Van Belle et al. (2010). Using a gaze-contingent window, we revealed only the fixated part of the face at a time, implying part based processing, while a mask forced participants to process the whole face by gaze-contingently occluding their fixated parts. We tested 25 5 years old children and 19 adults. In each trial, brief presentation of a target face was followed by the target and a distractor face, presented side-by-side and covered by a window or mask, or in full view. Participants had to indicate the target face. Despite an overall lower performance for children than adults, their performance pattern was very similar, with the highest accuracy in full view, and the lowest with the window (part-based) (adults: full=.97, mask= .94, window=.88; children: full=.84; mask=.79, window=.64) and similar results for correct RTs (adults: full=1148ms, mask=1291ms, window=2031ms; children: full=3279ms, mask=4718ms, window=6531ms). Overall, both mask and window decreased performance more for children than for adults suggesting that children’s face representation is less robust to reduced diagnostic information. However, in accuracy at least, the slight decrease of performance in the critical mask condition compared to full view did not differ between adults and children, suggesting mature holistic processing at 5 years of age.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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