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

Hannah Pimperton*, Elizabeth Pellicano, Linda Jeffery, Gillian Rhodes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-238
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • face recognition
  • development
  • adaptation
  • children
  • aftereffect
  • face perception


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