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Psychol Rev. 1991 Apr;98(2):164-81.

CONSPEC and CONLERN: a two-process theory of infant face recognition.

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Medical Research Council, Cognitive Development Unit, London, England.


Evidence from newborns leads to the conclusion that infants are born with some information about the structure of faces. This structural information, termed CONSPEC, guides the preference for facelike patterns found in newborn infants. CONSPEC is contrasted with a device termed CONLERN, which is responsible for learning about the visual characteristics of conspecifics. In the human infant, CONLERN does not influence looking behavior until 2 months of age. The distinction between these 2 independent mechanisms allows a reconciliation of the conflicting data on the development of face recognition in human infants. Finally, evidence from another species, the domestic chick, for which a similar 2-process theory has already been put forward, is discussed. The new nomenclature is applied to the chick and used as a basis for comparison with the infant.

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