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Romina Palermo, Marianne Thorburn, Ellen Bothe, Laura Engfors, Amber King, Kaitlyn Turbett, Xujia Wang, Prue Watson, Linda Jeffery; Individual differences in children's face recognition abilities. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):996. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.996.
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Accurate face identity recognition is crucial to social functioning. Despite this, there are considerable individual differences in this ability among the general population. In adults, these differences are primarily argued to reflect variation in face-specific perceptual and cognitive mechanisms, with only small contributions from more general cognitive abilities. Research has focused on the role of two face-sensitive perceptual mechanisms: holistic coding (in which information is integrated across a face) and adaptive norm-based coding (in which faces are coded relative to a norm in a multidimensional face-space and that norm is updated by experience), and shown that variation in the strength of these two mechanisms is associated with individual differences in face recognition abilities. In contrast, little is known about what contributes to individual differences in face recognition abilities in children. Performance on tests of face recognition improves with age, from preschool until adolescence, suggesting that face recognition skills mature during childhood. Nevertheless, children rely on the same face-sensitive perceptual mechanisms as adults, suggesting that individual differences in children's face recognition abilities may also be associated with variation in these mechanisms. However, given arguments that improvements in more general cognitive abilities may underlie the age-related improvements in face recognition ability, it is also plausible that variation in more general cognitive skills may make a more substantial contribution to children's, than adults, face recognition abilities. We examined the contributions of holistic processing and adaptive norm-based coding, along with general cognitive abilities, to individual differences in face recognition ability in over 150 children aged 6–9 years. Face recognition abilities were associated with the strength of both perceptual mechanisms but not cognitive abilities, when age was controlled for. These results indicate that face-sensitive perceptual mechanisms contribute to face recognition abilities by age six and suggest that this relationship potentially remains consistent throughout development.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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