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J Exp Child Psychol. 2006 Jun;94(2):134-62. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Sensitivity of 4-year-olds to featural and second-order relational changes in face distinctiveness.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. elinor.mckone@anu.edu.au


Sensitivity to adult ratings of facial distinctiveness (how much an individual stands out in a crowd) has been demonstrated previously in children age 5 years or older. Experiment 1 extended this result to 4-year-olds using a "choose the more distinctive face" task. Children's patterns of choice across item pairs also correlated well with those of adults. In Experiment 2, original faces were made more distinctive via local feature changes (e.g., bushier eyebrows) or via relational changes (spacing changes, e.g., eyes closer together). Some previous findings suggest that children's sensitivity develops more slowly to relational changes than to featural changes. However, when we matched featural and relational changes for effects on distinctiveness in adult participants, 4-year-olds were equally sensitive to both. Our results suggest that (a) 4-year-olds' face space has important aspects of structure in common with that of adults and that (b) there is no specific developmental delay for a second-order relational component of configural/holistic processing.

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