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Br J Psychol. 2011 Nov;102(4):799-815. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02066.x.

Insights into the development of face recognition mechanisms revealed by face aftereffects.

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ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.


An important question in person perception is how we acquire the perceptual/cognitive mechanisms that characterize adult expertise. Children's performance on face recognition tests improves dramatically between age 4 and adolescence suggesting that our face recognition system may change during childhood. Yet, the source of this improvement is controversial. In this review, we consider whether changes in the way identity is represented/coded in face space could contribute to this age-related improvement. Face aftereffects have been extensively applied to studying face coding in adults and more recently they have been applied to studying the mechanisms of face coding in children. Face aftereffects are temporary distortions of perception induced by exposure to faces and are thought to reflect the mechanisms underlying face perception. Face aftereffect techniques have revealed that children as young as 4 years of age show evidence of adult-like face space organization, with opponent coding of face dimensions. These findings are consistent with an emerging picture that the key mechanisms of face perception are present early in childhood.

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