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Sarah Laurence, Nicola Ralph, Eloise De Carvalho, Valentina Proietti, Catherine J Mondloch; Learning newly encountered faces from variable images in adults and children. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.139.
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Most people are prone to error when recognising unfamiliar faces across appearance changes, but are good at familiar face recognition. Recent work has examined how a face transitions from unfamiliar to familiar by studying exposure to within-person variability during face learning. Using this approach, several studies have shown that exposure to variability helps adults learn the faces of new people (e.g. Ritchie & Burton, 2017; Murphy et al., 2015) and the same is also true of children (Baker et al., 2017). The present work aimed to replicate and extend previous findings by examining individual differences in adults and factors that affect face learning in children. Adults (n = 60) completed a face recognition task in which they were asked to identify a target from naturally varying images depicting the target (n = 9) and a similar foil (n = 9). Before completing the face recognition task participants watched a 1-minute video or a sequence of static images that depicted the target on a single day (low variability) or across three days (showing high variability in appearance). Participants also completed a standardised test of face memory (CFMT). Participants performed better on the face recognition task after familiarisation (e.g. watching the video/viewing static images) compared to the control condition in which participants were not previously familiarised with the target. There was a positive correlation between the standardised memory test and performance on the face recognition task after participants were familiarised with the target, but not when there was no familiarisation phase. These findings suggest a dissociation between perceptual matching and memory. An ongoing study with children (aged 7 – 9 years; n = 30 to date) further explores perception vs. memory processes in children and suggests variability and duration of exposure help children learn the faces of new people.
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