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Allison B. Sekuler, Matthew V. Pachai, Sarah E. Creighton, Patrick J. Bennett; Age-related effects on selective processing of horizontal structure in whole-face context. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):573. doi: 10.1167/14.10.573.
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Younger observers use horizontal structure in the eyes/eyebrows when identifying faces (Pachai et al, VSS 2013), and the extent to which they do so is correlated with identification performance (Pachai et al., Front Psychol 2013). However, it is unknown whether the age-related decline in face identification accuracy is related to a reduced ability to utilize horizontal structure. Obermeyer et al. (Front Aging Neurosci 2012) showed poorer discrimination of horizontally filtered faces in older relative to younger adults, suggesting that older observers use diagnostic horizontal information less efficiently when the target band is specified precisely. It remains unclear, however, if there are age-related differences in the extraction of horizontal structure from the more ecologically valid case of intact faces. We examined this issue using a 6AFC identification paradigm in which the target face was filtered on a given trial to retain information in only the horizontal, vertical, or oblique orientation bands (bandwidth = 45 degrees). Across two groups, these stimuli were presented alone (face context absent) or combined with orthogonal facial structure obtained by averaging the six possible faces (face context present). For both groups, only a specific orientation band was diagnostic on a given trial, but the context present group had to extract this information from a whole face without knowing which orientation band was informative. Context affected the selective use of horizontal structure differently in the two age groups. Specifically, adding context caused young observers to be more reliant on horizontal structure, whereas it caused older observers to be less reliant on horizontal structure. This result suggests that the age-related deterioration in face identification is driven largely by decreased selective extraction of diagnostic information from intact stimuli, and is consistent with previous results suggesting that seniors rely more on holistic information in faces (Konar et al., Vis Res, 2013).
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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