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Welcome to the Face Perception Lab

 

Information for Parents

 

Did you know......  
Newborns have very poor visual acuity.

 

Your optometrist measures your visual acuity by asking you to read an eye chart until the letters become too small. To measure infants' visual acuity, we take advantage of the fact that babies look longer at patterned visual stimuli (e.g., stripes) than plain stimuli (e.g., a gray square). To measure infants' visual acuity we present them with a series of cards, each of which has black-and-white stripes on only one side. With each successive card, the stripes get smaller. The smallest stripes that still elicit looking indicate the baby's acuity. Stripes must be about 30x wider for a newborn than for an adult.

 

 

As a result, faces look something like this to a
1-month-old.

 

 

Newborns like faces!
Our studies have shown that even newborn infants look preferentially towards face-like stimuli. In addition, adults and children alike are delighted to interact face-to-face with young infants!

 

Even though the faces are blurry, this early experience 'sets up' the brain for later learning.
Our work has shown that infants who miss early experience with faces because they are born with cataracts in both eyes have permanent deficits in some aspects of face processing. For example, they perform poorly when asked to recognize a face from a new point of view (i.e., when asked to recognize a profile view after seeing a face 'en face').

 

Adults are experts at processing faces but this expertise develops very slowly.
Our research has shown that adults are able to discriminate faces based on the shape of individual features (e.g., the eyes), the shape of the external contour (e.g., the chin), and the spacing among features (e.g., the distance between the eyes). It is adults' sensitivity to the spacing among features that allows them to recognize a face from a novel point of view or under poor lighting conditions. Our research has shown that this sensitivity is very slow to develop. Even 14-year-olds make more errors than adults! Preschool children appear very insensitive to the spacing of facial features. They do notice when we move features too far apart - so far as to make the face look grotesque to adults.

 

However, when shown 2 realistic versions of their own face -- one unaltered and one with the eyes moved up -- 4 year-olds are unable to 'choose' the correct face!

 

Our research is contributing to understanding the normal development of face processing. The tasks that we have developed are being used by researchers around the world to investigate face processing in a variety of special populations (e.g., children with autism, children with William's syndrome, children with infantile brain lesions).

We depend on the willingness of parents and their children to participate in our research and would welcome a visit from your family!


You are invited to read the following letters that we deliver each year to parents at our participating schools.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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