The development of face recognition: Experimental evidence for maturation

Authors: Hills, P.

Publisher: Nova Science Publishing

Face recognition is an expert human ability in adults (Ellis, 1986) characterised by fast and efficient processing for upright faces. How this develops has remained somewhat shrouded in mystery given a number of challenges with conducting research on children: Specifically, to adequately test the recognition ability of children, the target stimuli need to be of children given the own-age bias in face recognition. Much of the published work uses adult faces thus causing extra difficulties for children. This may contribute to the often conflicting results reported in the literature. In this chapter, I will review the studies that have been conducted on the face-inversion effect in children and explore the research challenges associated with this type of research and then present one of the first longitudinal studies to explore the face-inversion effect in children using children's faces as stimuli. Two-hundred-and-seventy-six children (aged between 5- and 15-years of age at first time of testing) were tested over a three year period. Their ability to recognise upright and inverted faces was measured using reaction time measures, and measures of recognition accuracy and response bias. The results indicated that upright face recognition abilities improved with age. This was as a result of improved long-term memory storage capacities and more efficient working memory. The magnitude of the face-inversion effect also increased with age, with the recognition accuracy rate for inverted faces reaching a plateau at 7 years of age. I will interpret these results within an experience-based framework of the development of face recognition.

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Authors: Hills, P.J.

Pages: 145-188

ISBN: 9781631176043

© 2014 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Face recognition is an expert human ability in adults (Ellis, 1986) characterised by fast and efficient processing for upright faces. How this develops has remained somewhat shrouded in mystery given a number of challenges with conducting research on children: Specifically, to adequately test the recognition ability of children, target stimuli need to be age-matched given the own-age bias in face recognition. Much of the published work uses adult faces, thus adding recognition difficulties for children. This may contribute to the often conflicting results reported in the literature. This chapter has reviewed the studies that have been conducted on the face-inversion effect (a measure of face recognition expertise) in children and discussed the research challenges associated with this type of research. One of the first longitudinal studies was presented to explore the face-inversion effect in children using children's faces as stimuli. The study examined two-hundred-and-seventy-six participants (aged between 5- and 18-years of age at first time of testing) over a three year period. Their ability to recognise upright and inverted faces was measured using measures of recognition accuracy and response bias. The data showed that upright face recognition abilities improved linearly with age, as a result of improved long-term memory storage capacities for faces as indexed by an increase in hit rate. The magnitude of the face-inversion effect also increased with age according to a cubic function, with the recognition accuracy rate for inverted faces reaching a plateau at 10-years of age. These results were interpreted within a maturation-based framework of the development of face recognition in the context of the development of expertise in terms of a change in the perceptual field size (similar to perceptual expertise development in other domains). Expert face processing mechanisms are only employed for the recognition of faces from the age of 10, but inexpert mechanisms are employed prior to this age.

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