The effects of age of acquisition in processing people's faces and names
Word frequency and age of acquisition (AoA) influence word and object recognition and naming. High frequency and early acquired items are processed faster than low frequency and/or late acquired items. The high correlation between word frequency and AoA make these effects difficult to distinguish. However, this difficulty can be avoided by investigating the effects of AoA in the domain of recognising and naming famous faces and names. Face processing a suitable domain because the functional models of face processing were developed by analogy to word and object processing models. Nine experiments on the effects of AoA on face and name processing are reported. Experiment 1 investigated the influence of variables on naming famous faces. The variables were regressed on the speed and accuracy of face naming. Only familiarity and AoA significantly predicted successful naming. A factorial analysis and full replication revealed a consistent advantage for name production to early acquired celebrities' faces (Experiments 2 & 3). Furthermore this advantage was apparent from the first presentation (Experiment 4).Faster face and name recognition occured for early acquired than late acquired celebrities (Experiments 5 & 8). Early acquired names were read aloud faster than late acquired names (Experiment 7). Conversly semantic classifications were made faster to late acquired celebrities' faces (Experiment 6), but there was no effect in the same task to written names (Experiment 9).An effect of AoA for celebrities, whose names are acquired later in life than object names is problematic for the developmental account of AoA. Effects of AoA in recognition tasks are problematic for theorists who propose that speech output is the locus of AoA. A mechanism is proposed to account for the empirical findings. The data also presents a challenge for computer modelling to simulate the combined effects of AoA and cumulative frequency.