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Infant Behav Dev. 2008 Sep;31(3):470-80. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.12.015. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

The inversion effect in infancy: the role of internal and external features.

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  • 1Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Department of Pediatrics, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, United States.


The present work examined the changing role of inner and outer facial features in the recognition of upright and inverted faces in 5-, 7-, and 9-month-olds. Study 1 established that the "inversion effect" (impaired recognition of an inverted face) was present in infants as young as 5 months. In Study 2, internal and external features were inverted separately. Disrupting the internal configuration by inversion impaired recognition at all ages; disrupting the external configuration impaired recognition only at 5-months. In Study 3, an upright familiar face was paired with one having either novel internal or novel external features. The results confirmed that the 5-month-olds used only the external features to recognize faces, whereas older infants were as adept at using internal features as external ones. These findings suggest a shift, after 5 months, away from dependence on external features for face recognition and toward greater reliance on internal ones.

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