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Face recognition in children

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Summary

The human face provides important cues for recognition of both individuals and emotions. A card-sorting test was devised for assessing which aspects of a face are attended to primarily. The subjects were 21 5-year-old children and 18 psychology students. The task required a choice between (a) person identity and an irrelevant aspect (hairstyle); (b) person identity and facial expression (emotions); and (c) as a control condition, complex visual stimuli without social meaning (form and colour). No group differences emerged with the non-social stimuli, ruling out differences between children and adults in general sorting strategies. The two groups processed non-emotional facial stimuli differently, with the children showing “mixed” sorting behaviour, and the students usually making choices based on person identity. This can be explained by different processing strategies. However, when person identity and facial expressions were the competing dimensions in the card-sorting task, both groups showed a preference for the facial expression. It is argued that this reflects the great importance of emotional signals for both children and adults. The relevance of this finding for disturbed development is discussed.

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This research was supported by grant no. Pl 35/19-1 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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Bormann-Kischkel, C. Face recognition in children. Eur Arch Psychiatr Neurol Sci 236, 17–20 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00641052

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Key words

  • Face recognition
  • Emotion recognition
  • Children