A Perceptual Narrowing Model of Face Recognition

Brief Description:

This study examines the nature of infants' perception of faces belonging to different races and ethnicities. Specifically, we are interested in finding out how face shape and pigmentation combine to make a face look like it belongs to one category or another.

Eligibility for study participation

  • Infants, 9 months old
  • Born within 2 weeks of due date

Full Description:

In early infancy, babies are able to recognize faces from a wide range of categories including faces of different species, genders, and races. As they grow older, however, infants begin to show what is known as an "other-race effect." This means that faces belonging to ethnic groups that babies see less often become harder to tell apart. In this study, we are interested in determining how infants' use their experience with different kinds of faces to determine what to look for when recognizing, and possibly categorizing, a face.

During the experiment, infants watch Caucasian and African faces while we measure their brain activity. We use computer-generated faces to study how face shape and face pigmentation contribute to making a face look like an "other-race" face.

Face perception is a critical piece of social development. From a very early age, infants build categories of faces, but we don't yet know whether they define these categories according to face shape, pigmentation, or other measures. By measuring the brain responses of infants in this study, we hope to determine how these factors contribute to this aspect of visual learning.

Parents, read about our findings from this study!