Faces over time : the implications of temporal change for the perception and recognition of faces.
It is important to establish the role of age in face-processing since perceived-age is a
dimension that may be used to encode faces within memory. While previous research has
demonstrated faces can be categorised by age, a question that has not been addressed is how
well people are able to do so. This study identifies the extent to which people can categorise
faces on the basis of age and also explores the nature of the visual information used for this.
The evidence suggests that age-perception is much more complex than has been previously
suggested. Using realistic faces as stimuli, it becomes apparent that people are adept at
using a wide variety of cues to age. Overall, this demonstrates that we have a sophisticated
understanding of the changes that occur through ageing, that we can use with a high degree
of subtlety and accuracy.
Given the robust nature of information about age and the ability to which it can be used to
differentiate faces, age must be influential at encoding. However, the ability to determine
and encode a face's physical properties at one point in time can not be a full explanation for
the way faces are represented simply because those physical properties do not stay the same
over time. The ageing face can therefore be used as a tool to gain greater insight into what
facial information is utilised for individual recognition. This was investigated using a
recognition paradigm where the individual faces were of different ages to those initially
presented and hence displayed different physical properties. The evidence shows that
recognition despite age-induced changes is possible; this implies that there is not a one to
one mapping between the physical properties at encoding and those that the memory system
operates on to accomplish recognition.