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J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 Oct;104(2):229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.05.009. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

The role of higher level adaptive coding mechanisms in the development of face recognition.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK.


Developmental improvements in face identity recognition ability are widely documented, but the source of children's immaturity in face recognition remains unclear. Differences in the way in which children and adults visually represent faces might underlie immaturities in face recognition. Recent evidence of a face identity aftereffect (FIAE), in which adaptation (exposure) to a particular identity causes a previously neutral face to take on the computationally opposite identity, suggests that adults code faces in an opponent fashion relative to an average face. One previous study showed comparable FIAEs in 8-year-olds and adults but did not demonstrate that adaptation was selective for high-level representations in both groups. Using a developmentally appropriate FIAE task, we investigated whether children show adult-like adaptation for facial identity when adapting and test images differ in size. Both age groups showed an equivalent FIAE, suggesting that qualitative changes in the use of higher level adaptive coding mechanisms do not drive the developmental improvements in face recognition ability, at least from 8 years of age.

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