September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Capturing developmental shifts in facial identity and expression processing strategies.
Author Affiliations
  • Louise Ewing
    Department Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London ARC Centre for Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Psychology, University of Western Australia
  • Annette Karmiloff-Smith
    Department Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London Birkbeck Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Emily Farran
    Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London
  • Marie Smith
    Department Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1188. doi:
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      Louise Ewing, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Emily Farran, Marie Smith; Capturing developmental shifts in facial identity and expression processing strategies.. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1188.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Children are widely accepted to process faces differently from adults, with aspects of adult-like processing and neural specialization continuing to develop into early adulthood. Critically, however, little is known about the specific information processing strategies employed as children mature. Here, we investigate the development of face processing strategies in children aged 7-12 years using a reverse correlation approach to determine the visual features driving categorizations of face identity and expression. Specifically, 106 participants (90 children, 16 adults) were trained to identify three unfamiliar faces by name and 200 participants (180 children, 20 adults) were asked to categorize expressions of four basic emotions (fear, sadness, happiness, anger). Across experimental trials we created subsampled versions of these faces by randomly sampling visual information from the images (across different locations and spatial frequency bands) using circularly symmetric apertures (‘bubbles’). Participants had to make their categorization decisions based upon only the information directly behind these apertures; the rest was hidden from view. Results revealed that children make less use of the eyes than adults during both tasks. When reading face identity, adults rely on information from the eyes and mouth, particularly in high spatial frequency bands. In contrast, young children make less use of information from the eyes and focus their attention more on the mouth region, with this bias attenuating with age. During expression categorizations we found that relative to adults, children showed a much greater reliance on information from the mouth region when judging fear, sadness and anger, the three emotions that they found most challenging to identify. For happiness, however, which they recognized with near adult-like accuracy, children used information in a more equivalent manner to adults. Across both tasks, these results signal a clear developmental shift in participants’ strategic information use when making judgments about key facial characteristics.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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