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Alexander Elliott, Ali Hashemi, Sarah Creighton, Patrick Bennett, Allison Sekuler; Age-related decline in face identification can be trained away, and is explained by horizontal bias.. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):613. doi: 10.1167/17.10.613.
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Horizontal structure conveys diagnostic information for face identity (Dakin & Watt, J Vis 2009). Younger adults preferentially rely on this structure for identification (Goffaux & Dakin, Front Psychol 2010), and the extent of this horizontal bias correlates with identification accuracy in younger adults (Pachai et al., Front Psychol 2013). Older adults identify faces less accurately (Konar et al., Vis Res 2013) and exhibit less horizontal bias compared to younger adults, particularly when the diagnostic facial information is not explicitly defined (Sekuler et al., VSS 2014). Here, we examine whether training improves face identification in older adults, and whether enhanced face identification correlates with increased horizontal bias for diagnostic facial structure. Eleven older adults (67-77 years old) trained in a 1-of-10 face identification task for 1440 trials across 3 days. Before and after training, we assessed horizontal bias with orientation-filtered stimuli that preserved target-diagnostic information in 9 orientation bands (full bandwidth 20-180 deg; 20 deg increments) centred on 0 (horizontal) or 90 (vertical) deg. The complimentary, non-filtered orientations contained non-diagnostic facial context created by averaging the 10 faces. Hence, the pre- and post-training test stimuli were face-like in all conditions, but contained diagnostic information only at certain orientations. Training improved accuracy in older adults by an average of 22% (±4.7 SE; range -1–47%). Horizontal bias in older adults increased significantly after training: training improved accuracy significantly more for stimuli containing horizontal diagnostic structure than vertical diagnostic structure. Also, the change in horizontal bias from pre- to post-training was correlated with response accuracy during training (r=0.66), and the correlation between overall accuracy with pre- and post-training horizontal bias was 0.30 and 0.75, respectively. Thus, age-related deficits in face recognition are reduced with training, which appears to increase sensitivity to horizontal structure.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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