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Benjamin Balas, Amanda Auen, Alyson Saville, Jamie Schmidt, Assaf Harel; Children are sensitive to mutual information in intermediate-complexity face and non-face features. Journal of Vision 2020;20(5):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.5.6.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Understanding developmental changes in children's use of specific visual information for recognizing object categories is essential for understanding how experience shapes recognition. Research on the development of face recognition has focused on children's use of low-level information (e.g. orientation sub-bands), or high-level information. In face categorization tasks, adults also exhibit sensitivity to intermediate complexity features that are diagnostic of the presence of a face. Do children also use intermediate complexity features for categorizing faces and objects, and, if so, how does their sensitivity to such features change during childhood? Intermediate-complexity features bridge the gap between low- and high-level processing: they have computational benefits for object detection and segmentation, and are known to drive neural responses in the ventral visual system. Here, we have investigated the developmental trajectory of children's sensitivity to diagnostic category information in intermediate-complexity features. We presented children (5–10 years old) and adults with image fragments of faces (Experiment 1) and cars (Experiment 2) varying in their mutual information, which quantifies a fragment's diagnosticity of a specific category. Our goal was to determine whether children were sensitive to the amount of mutual information in these fragments, and if their information usage is different from adults. We found that despite better overall categorization performance in adults, all children were sensitive to fragment diagnosticity in both categories, suggesting that intermediate representations of appearance are established early in childhood. Moreover, children's usage of mutual information was not limited to face fragments, suggesting the extracting intermediate-complexity features is a process that is not specific only to faces. We discuss the implications of our findings for developmental theories of face and object recognition.
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