• The development of norm-based coding and category-specific face prototypes : an examination of 5- and 8-year-olds' face space

      Short, Lindsey; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2011-05-17)
      The present set of experiments was designed to investigate the organization and refmement of young children's face space. Past research has demonstrated that adults encode individual faces in reference to a distinct face prototype that represents the average of all faces ever encountered. The prototype is not a static abstracted norm but rather a malleable face average that is continuously updated by experience (Valentine, 1991); for example, following prolonged viewing of faces with compressed features (a technique referred to as adaptation), adults rate similarly distorted faces as more normal and more attractive (simple attractiveness aftereffects). Recent studies have shown that adults possess category-specific face prototypes (e.g., based on race, sex). After viewing faces from two categories (e.g., Caucasian/Chinese) that are distorted in opposite directions, adults' attractiveness ratings simultaneously shift in opposite directions (opposing aftereffects). The current series of studies used a child-friendly method to examine whether, like adults, 5- and 8-year-old children show evidence for category-contingent opposing aftereffects. Participants were shown a computerized storybook in which Caucasian and Chinese children's faces were distorted in opposite directions (expanded and compressed). Both before and after adaptation (i.e., reading the storybook), participants judged the normality/attractiveness of a small number of expanded, compressed, and undistorted Caucasian and Chinese faces. The method was first validated by testing adults (Experiment I ) and was then refined in order to test 8- (Experiment 2) and 5-yearold (Experiment 4a) children. Five-year-olds (our youngest age group) were also tested in a simple aftereffects paradigm (Experiment 3) and with male and female faces distorted in opposite directions (Experiment 4b). The current research is the first to demonstrate evidence for simple attractiveness aftereffects in children as young as 5, thereby indicating that similar to adults, 5-year-olds utilize norm-based coding. Furthermore, this research provides evidence for racecontingent opposing aftereffects in both 5- and 8-year-olds; however, the opposing aftereffects demonstrated by 5-year-olds were driven largely by simple aftereffects for Caucasian faces. The lack of simple aftereffects for Chinese faces in 5-year-olds may be reflective of young children's limited experience with other-race faces and suggests that children's face space undergoes a period of increasing differentiation over time with respect to race. Lastly, we found no evidence for sex -contingent opposing aftereffects in 5-year-olds, which suggests that young children do not rely on a fully adult-like face space even for highly salient face categories (i.e., male/female) with which they have comparable levels of experience.