Four-to-six-year-old children use norm-based coding in face-space

Linda Jeffery*, Elinor McKone, Rebecca Haynes, Eloise Firth, Elizabeth Pellicano, Gillian Rhodes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Citations (Scopus)


Children's performance on face perception tests does not reach adult levels until adolescence, a result which, a priori, could be due to qualitative change in face mechanisms with age, quantitative change in these mechanisms, or improvements in general cognitive abilities that are not face-specific (e.g., memory, attention). In adults, the major functional mechanisms of face recognition include holistic/configural processing and face-space coding. Previous research has established that holistic/configural processing is present by 4-6 years of age. Very little, however, is known about face-space coding in children. Here, we demonstrate that 4-6-year-old children show adaptation aftereffects for figural distortions (expanded/contracted, eyes up/down), providing the first evidence of aftereffects for identity-relevant information in children younger than 8 years. We also show that in 4-5 year-olds, as in adults, face aftereffects are stronger for adaptors far from the average (extreme distortions) than for adaptors closer to the average (mild distortions). This result provides the first compelling evidence that face-space coding is norm-based in children younger than 8 years of age, and rules out a qualitative shift from exemplar-based to norm-based coding as the source of developmental improvement in face identification performance beyond preschool age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • face perception
  • adaptation
  • aftereffects
  • development
  • children
  • norm-based coding

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Four-to-six-year-old children use norm-based coding in face-space'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this