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Staring development in the face: The role of visual experience in the development of face processing

Dr. Daphne Maurer
McMaster University

Newborns are drawn toward human faces during the first hour of life. Yet there are serious limitations on their perception of faces and adult expertise takes more than 14 years to develop. I will discuss the effect of visual experience on the development of this expertise. Most of the evidence comes from children who missed early visual input because of dense, central cataracts in both eyes. The deprivation lasted from birth until the cataracts were removed surgically and the child was given compensatory contact lenses, typically between 2 and 9 months of age. Additional evidence comes from studies of the effects of natural variations in experience on judgments of attractiveness. Collectively, the studies indicate that early visual input is necessary for the normal development of some, but not all, aspects of face processing.