The development of facial identity discrimination through learned attention

Elizabeth A. Simpson, Krisztina V. Jakobsen, Dorothy M. Fragaszy, Kazunori Okada, Janet E. Frick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Learned attention models of perceptual discrimination predict that with age, sensitivity will increase for dimensions of stimuli useful for discrimination. We tested this prediction by examining the face dimensions 4- to 6-month-olds (n=77), 9- to 12-month-olds (n=66), and adults (n=73) use for discriminating human, monkey, and sheep faces systematically varying in outer features (contour), inner features (eyes, mouth), or configuration (feature spacing). We controlled interindividual variability across species by varying faces within natural ranges and measured stimulus variability using computational image similarity. We found the most improvement with age in human face discrimination, and older participants discriminated more species and used more facial properties for discrimination, consistent with learned attention models. Older infants and adults discriminated human, monkey, and sheep faces; however, they used different facial properties for primates and sheep. Learned attention models may provide insight into the mechanisms underlying perceptual narrowing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1083-1101
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Computation simulation method
  • Configural processing
  • Discrimination
  • Facial feature
  • Facial identity
  • Human infant
  • Learned attention
  • Monkey faces
  • Perceptual narrowing
  • Sheep faces
  • Systematically varied faces
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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