The development of face recognition
This thesis contains an investigation into the development of children's (6-16 years) memory for faces. Preliminary studies showed that face recognition ability improves from 6 to 10 years, exhibits a temporary dip at age 11-12 years, followed by a recovery at 13 years. A similar pattern of age effects was also obtained for children's recognition of pictures (flags, houses). Two explanations for the improvement in face recognition accuracy (6-10 years) were considered. The first hypothesis was that the age differences resulted from a change in the type of facial information encoded. Carey (1978) proposed that young children encode piecemeal information whereas older children rely on configurational details. Examination of the development of children's recognition of inverted, and disguised faces suggested that Carey's data may have been influenced by floor effects. There appeared to be insufficient evidence to support her theoretical account of a piecemeal to configurational strategy-shift. A further study revealed that patterns of facial feature salience were relatively stable from 7 years to adulthood, this indicated that encoded feature information did not change with age. The second hypothesis was that temporal factors play a critical role in the development of face recognition. Results from a series of experiments discounted the possibility that age differences in rate of encoding or in metamnemonic knowledge of temporal factors were responsible for the developmental trend. However, although 10 year olds recognize faces more accurately than younger children at immediate test, this age difference is eliminated following a one week delay. Older children may benefit from some short-term encoding advantage which younger children lack. It was argued that the age effects in children's face recognition appear to be the product of developmental changes related to the acquisition and encoding of information rather than to differential storage or retrieval abilities.