Year of Publication

2006

Document Type

Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Ramesh Bhatt

Abstract

Diamond and Carey (1986) identify sensitivity to second-order relational information (i.e., spatial relations among features such as the distance between eyes) as a vital part of achieving expertise with face processing. Previous research suggests that 5-month-olds are sensitive to second-order relational information when shown line drawings of faces in which this information has been manipulated to an exaggerated degree. The present series of experiments explored infants sensitivity to second-order relational information using photographs of real faces and with second-order manipulations that were within the normal range of human variability. A discrimination study conducted with adults provided additional evidence that the second-order manipulations were within the normal range. Five- and 7- month-olds exhibited sensitivity to changes in second-order relational information. Moreover, 5-months detected second-order changes in upright but not in inverted faces, thereby exhibiting an inversion effect that has been considered to be a hallmark of second-order relational processing in adulthood. These results suggest that infants as young as 5 months of age are sensitive to second-order relational changes that are within the normal range of human variability. They also indicate that at least rudimentary aspects of face-processing expertise are available early in life.

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