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Giorgia Picci, K. Scherf; The development of gender and age biases in face recognition from childhood into adulthood. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1191. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.12.1191.
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Multiple biases characterize face recognition behavior in adults. For example, middle-aged adults have superior recognition for similarly aged adult faces compared to those of older adults or children (i.e., own-age bias, OAB) and for faces of individuals from within their own gender (i.e., own-gender bias, OGB). However, the developmental trajectories of these biases and the influences shaping them are largely unknown. A recent model (Scherf et al., 2012) predicts that adolescence, and puberty in particular, may be a unique developmental period in which critical transformations in face recognition behavior (e.g., these biases) emerge. The present study examined how the OAB and OGB develop over the course of adolescence by dissociating the relative effects of age and puberty. To do so, we tested age-matched adolescents in early and later stages of puberty, as well as prepubescent children (6-8) and young adults (18-25 years) in an old/new face recognition paradigm. Participants completed 4 separate blocks, including male and female faces from developmental groups matching participant groups (6-8, 11-14 early puberty, 11-14 late puberty, 18-25; see figure 1). Adults were the only group to exhibit an OAB. All three developmental groups were more accurate at recognizing adult faces, not faces from their own peer age group. In terms of gender biases (see figure 2), only adult males evinced an OGB (e.g., more accurate at recognizing own-gender faces). Children were more accurate at recognizing female compared to male faces, regardless of their own gender. Adolescents in early puberty did not exhibit any clear pattern of gender biases, whereas age-matched adolescents in later puberty showed an emerging OGB. These results are consistent with the notion that experiences with caregivers in childhood shape early face recognition biases, and that puberty uniquely influences the salience of gender, but not age, in face recognition behavior during adolescent development.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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