To what extent is experience necessary for face processing?

1894 words 8 pages
It has been claimed that ‘experience plays a crucial role in the development of face processing’ (Kelly, Quinn, Slater, Lee, Ge & Pascalis, 2007, p.1084). To what extent is experience necessary for face processing? Support your argument with empirical evidence.

There is much debate on the subject of experience in regards to face processing. Some say that experience is wholly important in face processing while others say that face processing is innate and will develop without experience. It has been argued both that face processing is a perceptual process organized at birth and that it originates in a more general process that becomes specialized due to experience of different faces (Sugita, 2009). It may be that there is an innate
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Another way in which the importance of experience has been demonstrated is through the study of monkeys. Sugita (2009) states that when monkeys were first deprived of faces and then exposed to either human or monkey faces; each developed a preference to the faces they were individually exposed to. These results are consistent with previous research on the concept of perceptual narrowing in which the perception of faces narrows to discriminate faces that are native to the particular person (Nelson, 2001). Sugita (2009) also suggests that, through experience, a broad prototype develops into a concrete one that has an improved ability to process familiar faces. A similar study was performed by Pascalis, et al. (2005) in which infants were exposed to macaque faces between six and nine months and there was a control group that had no exposure to macaque faces. They found that even with no exposure; all six month olds discriminated new macaque faces whereas at nine months, they could only discriminate new macaque faces if they had been previously exposed to macaques. This implies again that at birth there is an innate form of face processing and that as time goes on, perceptual narrowing occurs; which specializes the perceptual system to process what it is commonly exposed to through experience.

There is also evidence that face processing continues to develop until adulthood. This means that not only is experience important, but


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