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No more top-heavy bias: On early specialization process for face and race in infants

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Sarina Hui-Lin Chien and Hsin Yueh Hsu Graduate Institute of Neural & Cognitive Sciences, China Medical University Neonates display reliable visual preferences for human faces and face-like stimuli, which has been taken as strong evidence for an innate domain-specific bias toward faces. Alternatively, neonatal face preference can be explained by an innate non-specific top-heavy configuration bias on the basis that faces are inherently top-heavy. This review article aims to address the early specialization process for face and race in Taiwanese infants based our recent work. In the first two sections, we will review the classic findings on the neonatal face preference research. Three broad theories, the sensory hypothesis by linear system approach in the late 80s, the innate domain-specific representation hypothesis in the early 90s, and the non-specific top-heavy bias hypothesis in the last decade, will be addressed and compared. In the third section, we further explored some deeper issues regarding the top-heavy configuration bias hypothesis as well as our recent follow-up work. Using a forced-choice novelty preference method, we found that 2.5- to 4.5-month-old infants showed significant and equal novelty preferences, suggesting a reliable discriminability between the two configurations and a disappearance of the top-heavy bias. Moreover, using an eye-tracker, we investigated whether the top-heavy bias is still present in 3- to 5.5-month olds and in adults as a comparison group, and found no evidence for the top-heavy bias in both infants and adults. In the forth section, we illustrated the idea of an early specialization process for human face and race. Several recent developmental cognitive neuroscience studies on the infant brain as well as the behavioral studies on the other-race-effect in Caucasian and Taiwanese infants were reviewed. Taken together, our position on early face processing is in line with experience-expectant view; this view considers the brain specialization as emerging gradually from the interaction between small innate constraints and the critical input provided by the species-typical or race-typical environment. Keywords: experience-expectant, face processing, innate bias, newborn infants, other-race effect
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中華心理學刊 10154卷,1期,95-114
Chinese Journal of Psychology 2012, Vol.54, No.1, 95-114
© 2012 Airiti Press Inc. & Taiwanese Psychology Association
No More Top-Heavy Bias: On Early Specialization Process for
Face and Race in Infants
Sarina Hui-Lin Chien and Hsin Yueh Hsu
Graduate Institute of Neural & Cognitive Sciences, China Medical University
Neonates display reliable visual preferences for human faces and face-like stimuli, which has been taken as strong
evidence for an innate domain-specic bias toward faces. Alternatively, neonatal face preference can be explained by an
innate non-specic top-heavy conguration bias on the basis that faces are inherently top-heavy. This review article aims
to address the early specialization process for face and race in Taiwanese infants based our recent work. In the rst two
sections, we will review the classic ndings on the neonatal face preference research. Three broad theories, the sensory
hypothesis by linear system approach in the late 80s, the innate domain-specic representation hypothesis in the early
90s, and the non-specic top-heavy bias hypothesis in the last decade, will be addressed and compared. In the third
section, we further explored some deeper issues regarding the top-heavy conguration bias hypothesis as well as our
recent follow-up work. Using a forced-choice novelty preference method, we found that 2.5- to 4.5-month-old infants
showed signicant and equal novelty preferences, suggesting a reliable discriminability between the two congurations
and a disappearance of the top-heavy bias. Moreover, using an eye-tracker, we investigated whether the top-heavy bias
is still present in 3- to 5.5-month olds and in adults as a comparison group, and found no evidence for the top-heavy
bias in both infants and adults. In the forth section, we illustrated the idea of an early specialization process for human
face and race. Several recent developmental cognitive neuroscience studies on the infant brain as well as the behavioral
studies on the other-race-effect in Caucasian and Taiwanese infants were reviewed. Taken together, our position on
early face processing is in line with experience-expectant view; this view considers the brain specialization as emerging
gradually from the interaction between small innate constraints and the critical input provided by the species-typical or
race-typical environment.
Keywords: experience-expectant, face processing, innate bias, newborn infants, other-race effect
One of the most important tasks in modern
developmental neuroscience research is to uncover how
domain-specific knowledge is specialized in the human
brain during the course of development. In this respect,
face processing is a particularly appealing topic because
“faces” are biologically significant stimuli, and several
lines of evidence suggest that face processing in adults
rests on an anatomically and/or a functionally specialized
neural circuit (e.g., Farah, 2000; Kanwisher, 2000). Just
a glance at a face, one can be infused with tremendous
Received: March 3, 2011; First Revision: June 25, 2011; Second Revision: August 11, 2011; Accepted: August 19, 2011
Correspondence Author: Sarina Hui-Lin Chien (sarinachien@mail.cmu.edu.tw) No. 91, Hsueh-Shih Rd., Taichung 40402, Taiwan.
Graduate Institute of Neural & Cognitive Sciences, College of Life Sciences, China Medical University
Acknowledgements: This paper was supported in part by National Science Council grants NSC 98-2410-H-039-002 and NSC
99-2410-H-039-003-MY3 to Dr. S. H. L. Chien. We would like to thank President Jong-Tsun Huang of China
Medical University, Dr. Lin Chen of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and to Dr. Su-Ling Yeh of National Taiwan
University for their devotion and enthusiasm for making the special post-conference issue possible. We would also
like to thank the editor and two reviewers for their invaluable comments on the manuscript for the Special Issue:
Highlights from the 2010 Cross-Strait Forum on the Joint Development of Cognitive Science Studies.
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96 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
amount of social, visual, and cognitive information
(e.g., a person’s identity, age, sex, emotional state, or
even intention) that are important for interpersonal
interactions. However, how do these remarkable face-
processing capacities emerge and what might determine
this functional specialization have been hotly debated
for decad es. This review article was divided into four
sections. In the rst section, we started out highlighting
the classic findings on the neonatal face preference
studies. In the second section, we discussed three
broad views, the sensory hypothesis, the configuration
hypothesis, and the non-specific perceptual bias
hypothesis to explain neonatal face preference. In the
third section, we further explored the issues regarding
the d eve lop men tal trajectory a nd the stren gth of the
top-heavy configuration bias. In the forth section, we
elaborated the idea of an early specialization process
for human face and race. Several recent developmental
cognitive neuroscience studies on the infant brain and the
behavioral studies on the other-race-effect in Caucasian
and Taiwanese infants will be reviewed as well.
Newborns Show Looking Preferences
for Schematic and Real Faces
Human neonates’ visual capacity is very limited at
birth; the visual system undergoes rapid development
during the first six months of life and continues to
improve gradually over several years (Atkinson, 1984;
Johnson, 1997; Maurer & Maurer, 1988; Teller, 1997).
Despite of their relatively poor vision at birth, newborn
infants attend to human faces or face-like stimuli within
hours after birth. Using the preferential looking paradigm,
Fantz’s (1963) classic study was the first to report that
newborn infants showed longer fixation for schematic
faces than other stimuli. Subsequent studies supported
and extended such finding; the early face preference
phenomenon was demonstrated with both static and
moving stimuli (Goren, Sarty, & Wu, 1975; Johnson &
Morton, 1991), and with both schematic and veridical
images of faces (Macchi Cassia, Turati, & Simion, 2004;
Valenza, Simion, Macchi Cassia, & Umiltà, 1996). Other
studies revealed that newborns preferred looking at faces
versus other non-face stimuli (Easterbrook, Kisilevsky,
Hains, & Muir, 1999; Maurer & Barrera, 1981) and even
looked longer at attractive faces rated by adults (Slater et
al., 1998).
In addition to schematic faces, newborn infants
look longer at and orient more frequently toward the
familiar faces such as their mothers’ faces. One of the
first studies demonstrating this intriguing phenomenon
revealed that neonates preferred to look at their mother’s
face over a female stranger’s face (Field, Cohen, Garcia,
& Greenberg, 1984). Subsequent studies controlling for
maternal body odors, hair colors, and face brightness also
confirmed Field et al.’s (1984) findings that newborns
preferred their mother ’s face (Bushnell, Sai, & Mullin,
1989; Pascalis, de Schonen, Morton, Deruelle, & Fabre-
Grenet, 1995; Walton, Bower, & Bower, 1992).
What May Account for the Neonatal
Face Preference?
It is unquestionable that humans are born with a
predisposition o r bias to attend to face. However, the
nature of this attentional bias is still in dispute. What
exactly is the information in faces and face-like stimuli
that drives newborns to look longer? Is it because we are
born with an innate face-specific processing mechanism
as Farah (2000) strongly proclaimed? Or, a more general
property of perceptual processing can sufciently trigger
newborns’ attention to faces (see Figure 1)? Three broad
theories, the sensory hypothesis by linear system model in
the late 80s, the innate domain-specic face representation
hypothesis in the early 90s, and the recent non-specic top-
heavy bias hypothesis, will be reviewed in this section.
The “Sensory” Hypothesis versus the “Social”
Hypothesis
One of the most influential model explaining
neonatal visual preferences, the linear system model by
Banks and Ginsburg (1985), has successfully illustrated
newborn’s preferences for a variety of visual patterns,
given their limited visual capacities (Banks & Ginsberg,
08-Chien.indd 96 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:27
Early Specialization for Face and Race 97
1985; Banks & Salapatek, 1981). Based on this model, the
sensory hypothesis proposed that infants are attracted to
faces because faces posses low spatial frequency and high
contrast components that are more “visible” to infants
eyes; this idea is contrasted with the social hypothesis
which stated that infants have some built-in sensitivity to
the conguration of faces (Kleiner & Banks, 1987). For
any given visual pattern, two functions may be derived:
the amplitude spectrum (the amplitude and orientation
of the component spatial frequencies) and the ph ase
spectrum (the phases and orientation of the components).
In the lin ear systems mo del, the amplitu de spectrum
of any stimulus pattern, collapsed over orientation, is
filtered through the contrast sensitivity function (CSF)
of the appropriate age group. For a newborn infant, this
effectively removes all information at spatial frequencies
greater than abo ut 2 cycles per degree (cpd). What is
crucial is the extent to which the contrast in the remaining
frequencies exceeds the infant’s contrast threshold. As
newborns are most sensitive to frequencies between
0.2 and 0.5 cpd (Atkinson, Braddick, & French, 1979),
energy in that range will be most effective in attracting
the infant’s attention.
To answer whether the sensory hypothesis works for
faces, Kleiner (1987) designed a clever study in which
she used two stimuli, a schematic face and a lattice (see
Figure 2A and 2B). Using the Fourier transform, she
obtained the amplitude and phase spectrum of each, and
then generated two new images combining the amplitude
Figure 1. Newborn infants show looking preferences for real faces, schematic faces, or face-like patterns. The
three gures in the upper row, from left to right, are the photographed face of Taiwanese celebrity
(Ms. Chi-Ling Lin), the cartoon character (Chibi Maruko), and the face-like pattern (adopted from
Turati, 2004, respectively). To better illustrate that the non-specic “top-heavy” conguration exists
in all three types of gures, the versions in the bottom row are the same ones with the outer contour
and the hairline removed.
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98 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
spectrum of the lattice with the phase spectrum of the
face (see Figure 2C), and vice versa (Figure 2D). If the
sensory hypothesis is correct, that the infants’ preferences
are governed by greater total amplitude of stimulation,
patterns with the amplitude spectrum of the face (Figure
2A and 2D) should be preferred to patterns with the
amplitude spectrum of the lattice (Figure 2B and 2C)
because phase shall be irrelevant. On the contrary, if
the social hypothesis is correct that preferences involve
face structure, patterns with the phase spectrum of the
face (Figure 2A and 2C) should receive most attention.
Results with newborns were mixed. Figure 2D was
preferred to Figure 2C, indicating the irrelevance of
phase (structural) information. However, in trials when
Figure 2A was pitting against Figure 2D (with the same
amplitude spectrum of the face), newborns looked longer
at Figure 2A, indicating a preference for the “phase”
information of the face when the amplitudes were equated
(Kleiner, 1987). Thus, this study demonstrated that indeed
the “visibility” of a pattern is crucial as the sensory
hypothesis proclaimed; however, it is also true that some
built-in sensitivity for the structure of faces is present at
birth.
The Innate Domain-Specic Face
Representation Views
Since the time that Fantz (1963) rst demonstrated
th a t in f ants prefe rred schem atic face than non- f ace
stimuli, it has been a predominant conjecture that neonatal
face perception is driven by an innate bias toward the
configuration or structure of human face (e.g., Farah,
2000; Karmiloff-Smith, 1996). In other words, through
the mechani sm of e volut ion, human n eonates’ ability
A. B.
C. D.
Figure 2. Stimuli used to test phase and amplitude information in infants’ face preference. Panel (A): The
original image of that contains both the amplitude and phase spectra of a schematic face. Panel (B):
The original image of that contains both the amplitude and phase spectra of a lattice. Panel (C): The
combined image of with the amplitude spectrum of the lattice and the phase spectrum of the face.
Panel (D): The combined image of with the amplitude spectrum of the face and the phase spectrum
of the lattice. (adopted from Kellman & Arterberry, 2000).
08-Chien.indd 98 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:28
Early Specialization for Face and Race 99
to process faces can be pre-wired without experience
because faces are highly signicant biological stimuli. In
line with this view, the most inuential model proposed
by Morton and Johnson (1991) hypothesized a two-
stage CONSPEC/CONLERN mechanism for early face
processing. This model argued that infants are born
with some information about the structure of faces. This
information is in the form of a face-detecting subcortical
visuomotor device called CONSPEC (short for
conspecics). The preferential response to face observed
in newborns is mediated primarily (but not exclusively)
by the “CONSPEC,” whereas later developed abilities to
recognize individual faces and facial expressions on the
basis of internal features are inuenced more by cortical
visuomotor pathways, the “CONLERN.” The term
CONLERN is used to describe the cortical systems that
young infants learn about particular faces of members
of their species. CONLERN is simply a system that
acquires and retains specic information about the visual
characteristics of conspecifics (see Johnson & Morton,
1991 for a review).
Principal support for the CONSPEC of Morton and
Johnson’s (1991) model comes from reports that newborn
infants preferentially look at schematic faces over
scrambled and blank faces (Goren et al., 1975; Johnson,
Dziurawiec, Ellis, & Morton, 1991) with a tracking
paradigm (see Figure 3). In these studies, researchers
mounted stimuli on paddles and steadily moved them
across the newborns’ visual eld while recording eye and
head movements. Under these testing conditions, both
eye and head movements were found to be greater for
schematic face stimuli, thus demonstrating that newborns
show more interest in face-like patterns relative to other
stimuli. The finding that newborns only exhibit a face
preference when stimuli are presented in the temporal
visual field, which feeds to subcortical pathways1,
is consistent with the prediction of the subcortical
CONSPEC module. In contrast, when stimuli are
presented in the nasal visual eld, which feeds to cortical
pathways, a face preference is not observed (Simion,
Valenza, Umiltà, & Della Barba, 1995).
Parallel with Johnson and Morton (1991) model,
de Schonen and Mathivet (1989) also proposed the
idea that newbo rns p referenc e for faces is mediate d
by subcortical circuits whose only purpose is to orient
newborns’ gaze toward faces. By ensuring that infants
have visual experience with this type of stimuli, the
subcortical structures support the gradual emergence of
specialized cortical circuits subserving face processing in
adults. This position combines the notion that evolution
adaptively provided newborns with a device specically
tuned to faces with the view that visual experience plays
a crucial role in the normal development of sophisticated
face processing abilities. At a deeper level, Johnson and
Morton’s (1991) and de Schonen and Mathivet’s (1989)
models are rooted in a similar cognitive neuroscience
Face Scrambled Blank
Figure 3. The three stimuli used by Johnson and Morton (1991) in their replication of Goren et al. (1975)
original study: Newborn infants tracked the face in preference to the scrambled and the blank.
08-Chien.indd 99 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:28
100 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
perspective, in which domain-specic cognitive structures
are thought to emerge gradually from the interaction
between small innate constraints and the vast input
structure provided by the species-typical environment
(Elman et al., 1996).
The Non-specic Perceptual Bias Hypothesis:
Newborns Prefer Top-Heavy Conguration
Within the past ten years, a research group from
Padua, Italy, has established an alternative hypothesis
suggesting a more simplistic account for neonatal face
preference. The main idea is that newborn face perception
is driven by functional properties of the visual system
that is not specic to faces per se. In other words, some
domain-general constraints of the visual system might
be sufficient to explain newborns’ preference toward
faces. They proposed two kinds of non-specic structural
properties that are typically seen in faces. The first,
termed up-down asymmetry, or the top-heavy bias, refers
to the presence of more patterning in the upper than in
the lower part of the configuration (Simion, Valenza,
Macchi Cassia, Turati, & Umiltà, 2002). The second,
termed congruency, refers to the existence of a congruent
spatial relation between the spatial disposition of the
inner features and the shape of the outer contour, with the
greater number of inner elements located in the widest
portion of the configuration (Macchi Cassia, Valenza,
Pividori, & Simion, 2002). Both properties characterized
the face-like patterns used in almost all the experiments
in which newborns’ face preference was demonstrated.
Because faces are up-down asymmetrical (two eyes in the
upper and one mouth in the lower part), thus, neonatal
face preference actually reects a non-specic perceptual
preference for up-down asymmetry (i.e., top-heavy bias),
rather than an innate bias for face-specic representation
(Turati, 2004).
A series of studies have been reported to support the
non-specific bias hypothesis. As illstrated in Figure 4A,
Simion et al. (2002) demonstrated that newborns showed
looki ng pre fer ence fo r t op- hea vy geometr ic pat ter ns
(e.g., T-shape, -shape, -shape, see Figure 4A) with
more elements in the upper part than the bottom-heavy
ones. Subsequently, Turati, Simion, Milani, and Umiltà
(2002) conducted a series of experiments using a set of
face-like stimuli with the same number of inner elements
and the same head-shaped contour usually displayed in
face-like configurations (see Figure 4B). They directly
compared infants’ reactions to a face-like configuration
and a top-heavy non-face pattern; the results indicated
that newborns did not show any visual preference
(Figure 4B, middle panel). In another comparison, a
pattern with the inner elements positioned in a face-like
arrangement but globally located lower than in a normal
face was contrasted with a top-heavy pattern in which
the elements were in the upper portion but did not form a
face conguration (Figure 4B, bottom panel). Newborns
preferred the top-heavy pattern (i.e., the right one), even
though it did not represent a face. A very similar pattern
of results has also been replicated with images of real
faces (Macchi Cassia et al., 2004). In summary, this line
of work rmly supports the idea that the innate preference
for some non-specific structural properties may be
sufcient to account for neonatal face preference.
Interim Summary
In su m m ary, the thr e e vi ews on neo n a t a l face
preference described above can be seen as complementary
rather than conicting in some way, as they converge to
describe a highly specialized process that is functional
from the very first moments of life. The concept of
visibility of the sensory hypothesis is important; the
stimuli have to be at least “visible” (above infant’s
threshold) to attract infants’ attention. However, when the
stimuli are equally visible, it is shown that some built-
in sensitivity for face-like configuration is present at
birth. What exactly is there in a face that attracts infants’
attention is the heart of the debate. Is it the “faceness”
itself or something else? The difference between Johnson
and Morton’s CONSPEC/CONLERN model and Turati’s
top-heavy bias hypothesis lies in the nature of the initial
representation. The former hypothesizes a domain-
specic representational bias (i.e., real faces or face-like
stimuli) at the very beginning of life, and its neural basis
rests in the subcortical level rather than the cortical level.
The latter proposed that it is not necessary to assume
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Early Specialization for Face and Race 101
the existence of a specific innate cortical or subcortical
representational bias toward faces. The earliest basis
of face specialization appears to rest on the general
functioning of the visual system (something as simple as
a top-heavy configuration), which constrains newborns
to attend to certain broad classes of visual stimuli that
include faces.
It is still an on-going debate whether the initial
representation is domain-specific or non-specific.
Nevertheless, there is at least a certain degree of
consensus that newborn infants demonstrate a visual
preference for both real and schematic human faces over
al mos t a ny othe r c ate gory of stimulus (Fa ntz , 19 63,
Goren et al., 1975; Johnson et al., 1991; Valenza, et al.,
1996). Although this may not provide conclusive evidence
for an innate face processing module, it is suggestive
of a specialized cognitive system operating from very
early in life, and a fast learning process once the system
gains more experience. In the next two sections, we will
review our recent work on further testing the top-heavy
bias hypothesis and on exploring the early sensitivity to
race information in Taiwanese infants to illustrate the fast
learning and specialization process.
No More Top-Heavy Bias at 2.5 Months:
A Fast Learning Process Specically
Tuned to Face Representation
As stated above, series of studies published by
Turati’s group firmly supported the idea that some
A. B.
Geometric gures
in Simion et al. (2001)
Face-like stimuli
In Turati et al. (2002) Total xation time Number of discrete looks
53.86 s vs. 37.62 s
p < .03
10 vs. 8.09
p < .05
34.70 s vs. 41.08 s
p > .20
7.6 vs. 8.3
p > .30
44.15 s vs. 22.89 s
p < .003
10.43 vs. 6.5
p < .01
Figure 4. The main studies that support the non-specic top-heavy perceptual bias hypothesis. Panel (A)
shows the three pairs of non-face geometric gures which were adopted from Simion, Macchi
Cassia, Turati, and Valenza (2001). Newborn infants consistently looked longer at the top-heavy
conguration (the left ones with a star) that more elements are located in the upper part of the
gure. Panel (B) shows the total xation time and the number of discrete looks for the three pairs
of face-like stimuli which were adopted from Turati et al. (2002). Across the three pairs, newborn
infants demonstrated a clear looking preference toward the top-heavy conguration regardless
whether the pattern resembles a face or not.
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102 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
preexisting non-specific structural properties may be
sufficient to account for newborns’ preferences for
real faces and face-like stimuli. Indeed, the idea that a
non-specific top-heavy configuration bias may explain
neonatal facial preference is truly original; nevertheless,
several deeper issues deserve further investigation
(Chien, Hsu, & Su, 2009). The first question is about
the developmental trajectory. How long will such a non-
specific structural bias stay in infancy? Is it a long-
lasting effect or a short-lived phenomenon only present
at birth? The second question is about the strength of the
bias. How strong is the top-heavy bias? Is it as strong
as a reex (i.e., a xed behavior) or can it be eliminated
or enhanced via operant conditioning? The third issue is
about the methodological limitation. As far as the topic
is concerned, there is no direct within-subject evidence
showing that an infant who prefers faces also prefers
top-heavy non-face figures. The final question is about
the physiological basis. What might be the visual neural
substrates in the newborn brain that can account for such
an up-down asymmetry bias? Perhaps the last question is
the hardest; nevertheless, the rst three questions can be
empirically addressed (Chien et al., 2009). Below we will
review our recent findings showing that the top-heavy
bias seems to be extremely short-lived.
The Intrinsic Top-Heavy Bias Is Short-Lived
Few studies have explored whether the “top-heavy”
conguration bias is still present at 3 or 4 months of age,
and the evidence seems inconclusive (Chien & Hsu, 2010;
Chien, Hsu, & Su, 2010; Islam, Lobue, & DeLoache,
2010; Quinn, Tanaka, Lee, Pascalis, & Slater, 2010;
Turati, Valenza, Leo, & Simion, 2005). Using an eye-
tracker, Turati et al. (2005) found that 3-mo-olds preferred
natural face images to unnatural ones, replicating and
extending previous evidence (Exp.1). However, infants
did not show consistent preference for non-face top-heavy
geometric patterns (Exp. 2). Thus, they concluded that
“at 3 months of age, the general mechanism responsible
for infants’ visual preference for top-heavy patterns is
still present but weaker and, thus, is activated only when
up-down asymmetry is highly salient.” To systematically
investigate the developmental trajectory and the strength
of the intrinsic “top-heavy” bias, we (Chien et al.,
2010) tested the basic discriminability between ‘‘top-
heavy” and ‘‘bottom-heavy” geometric patterns in 2- to
4.5- month-old infants, using a modified forced-choice
familiarization/novelty procedure (FNP; Chien, Palmer,
& Teller, 2003). Figure 5 illustrates the procedure the
FNP trials and the main results of Chien et al. (2010). The
key manipulation was that each infant was tested with
three types of top-heavy and bottom-heavy geometric
figures (e.g., T-shape, -shape, -shape) and received
both familiarized-to-top-heavy and familiarized-to-
bottom-heavy conditions. The results showed signicant
and equal novelty preferences (i.e., observer’s percent
correct [OPC] scores in this case) in both familiarization
conditions across age and figure types, suggesting a
reliable discriminability between top-heavy and bottom-
heavy congurations and there is no intrinsic bias towards
either conguration at this age (see Figure 5B).
Eye Tracking Study Revealing Looking
Preferences Only for Upright Faces in Infants
and Adults
Chien et al. (2010) found that the top-heavy bias
observed at birth (Simion et al., 2002; Turati, 2004) is
no longer present at 2.5 months of age; however, the
evidence is limited only to the non-face geometric gures.
Therefore, using a free viewing paradigm with an eye
tracker (Tobii T60), we (Chien, 2011) systematically
investigated whether top-heavy configuration bias is
still present for 3 to 5.5 month-old infants and for adults
as a comparison group. To be able to compare with the
main findings in the literature, Chien (2011) adopted
three classes of digitized stimuli including the “top-
heavy” and “bottom-heavy” geometric figures used in
Simion et al. (2002), schematic face-like figures used
in Turati et al. (2002), and photographed faces used in
Macchi Cassia et al. (2004). The key manipulation was
that each infant participant must view all three classes of
stimuli, presented in pairs of top-heavy vs. bottom-heavy
conguration for 20 seconds each.
In Chien’s (2011) study, the infant experiment aimed
to assess whether the top-heavy configuration bias is
08-Chien.indd 102 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:28
Early Specialization for Face and Race 103
still present in 3- to 5.5-mo-old infants. The reason for
choosing this age range is because a major transition from
subcortical to cortical visual pathway takes place at this
time period, marking the starting point where some degree
of cortical specialization for faces begins to emerge (Halit,
de Haan, & Johnson, 2003; Tzourio-Mazoyer et al.,
2002). The adult experiment aimed to assess if there is
any reliable spontaneous looking preference for the same
set of stimuli; the purpose of testing adults was to offer
a comparison end point as human adults’ performance
can be regarded as a mature-state of behavior of visual
information processing. The main predictions were
as follows: If the top-heavy bias was still present and
determines infant’s spontaneous looking preference, it
was expected to obtain reliable and consistent looking
preference for all the top-heavy configurations across
geometric figures, face-like patterns, and photographed
faces in individual participants. On the other hand, if
the top-heavy configuration bias was no longer present,
infant’s looking preference may be specically triggered
by the resemblance of real faces, and there shall be no
consistent looking preference across all kinds of top-
heavy figures except for the ones that were upright
photographed faces.
To reveal whether a consistent looking preference
for the top-heavy conguration across gure types exists
for any individual participants, Chien (2011) computed an
index of top-heavy bias for each gure and conducted a
scatter plot analysis for individual infants and adults. For
A.
“Familiarized-to-top-heavy” “Familiarized-to-bottom-heavy”
Trial #1 Trial #1
Study
Test
Trial #2 Trial #2
Study
Test
Trial #3 Trial #3
Study
Test
08-Chien.indd 103 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:28
104 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
any particular pair of test stimuli, the index is computed
as the looking time for top-heavy configuration minus
the looking time for bottom-heavy configuration, and
divided by the total looking for the test pair. Therefore,
the value of the index is a number between -1 and 1. A
positive value indicates a preference for the top-heavy
configuration; a negative value indicates a preference
for the bottom-heavy configuration; a value close to
zero indicates no preference for either. These indices
allow us to directly assess whether there is correlated
preference for all top-heavy congurations across gure
types in each individual participant. Figure 6 illustrates
the distribution of the individual infant’s (on the left) and
adult’s (on the right) indices of the top-heavy bias for
eight stimulus pairs in Chien (2011). In each data graph,
the black circles represent the group means for these eight
stimulus pairs. The pink marks are for infants younger
than 20 weeks, while the blue marks are for those older
than 20 weeks. In terms of the degree of resemblance to a
face, the vertical order of the test pairs from top to bottom
follows the subjective facedness rating result. The gure
on the top represents the pattern that was rated least like a
face (i.e., the -shape), while the bottom one represents
the pattern that was rated most like a face (i.e., Taiwanese
B.
55.4%
62.4% 58.2%
63.5% 59.0% 59.6%
0%
25%
50%
75%
100%
T-shape -shape ʁ-shape
Observer’s Percent Correct Across Ages (N = 24)
OPC (boom-heavy figures, familiarized-to-top-heavy)
OPC (top-heavy figures, familiarized-to-boom-heavy)
Figure 5. The experimental design and main ndings in Chien, Hsu, and Su (2010). Panel (A) shows the
experimental conditions and the FNP procedure. The left column shows the familiarized-to-top-
heavy condition and the right column shows the familiarized-to-bottom-heavy condition. Each FNP
trial contains a study phase and a test phase. In the test phase, the observer judges which stimulus
that the infant prefers and makes a forced-choice response about the location of the novel stimulus.
Panel (B): The mean observer’s percent correct (OPC) scores for the three geometric gures in 2.5-
to 4-month-old infants. The abscissa represents the types of gures (T-shape, -shape, -shape).
The ordinate depicts the observer’s percent correct (OPC) scores for correctly judging the locations
of the novel stimulus over repeated trials. Error bars represent the standard errors of the group
means. The results indicate signicant and about equal novelty effects for the novel stimuli in both
the familiarized-to-top-heavy and the familiarized-to-bottom-heavy conditions and for all three
gure types.
08-Chien.indd 104 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
Early Specialization for Face and Race 105
woman’s face). However, in terms of top-heavy vs.
bottom-heavy configuration, the vertical order of
presentation of the eight stimulus pairs shall not matter at
all, because in any given pair, the top-heavy conguration
is always placed on the right side and the bottom-heavy
one is on the left. If the top-heavy bias is still present and
determines infant’s spontaneous looking preference for all
the top-heavy geometric figures, face-like patterns, and
photographed faces, it is expected that all the data points
shall fall within the positive side. On the other hand, if the
Figure 6. The distribution of the individual infant’s (on the left) and adult’s (on the right) indices of the top-
heavy bias for eight stimulus pairs in Chien (2011). For each graph, the top-heavy gures are on
the right side and the bottom-heavy ones are on the left. The value of the top-heavy bias index is a
number between -1 and 1. A positive value indicates a preference for the top-heavy conguration;
a negative value indicates a preference for the bottom-heavy conguration; a value close to zero
indicates no preference for either. The black circles in both graphs represent the group means for
these eight stimulus pairs. In terms of the degree of resemblance to a face, the order of the test pairs
from top to bottom follows the subjective face-likeness rating result in which the top gure represents
the pattern that is rated least like a face, while the bottom gure represents the pattern that is rated
most like a face. For the infants, the values of the geometric and the face-like patterns were close to
zero, indicating no consistent bias for either the “top-heavy” or the “bottom-heavy” conguration.
For the adults, the indices for the geometric and face-like patterns were also close to zero except for
the T-shape gure and the ones that had higher ratings on facedness scale. Moreover, the indices for
photographed upright faces were positive in both infants and adults, indicating a clear preference for
upright natural faces over inverted or unnatural ones.
08-Chien.indd 105 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
106 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
top-heavy conguration bias is no longer present, infant’s
looking preference may be specifically triggered by the
resemblance of real faces, the data points for the non-face
stimuli shall fall randomly around the zero line.
As revealed in Figure 6, the top-heavy bias is no
longer present in infants of this age range. Majority
of the data points for the top-heavy and bottom-heavy
geometric and face-like patterns fall randomly on either
side of the zero line; while the data points for the last two
photographed face pairs clearly shift towards the positive
side. For the infants (the left graph), the values of the
geometric and the face-like patterns are close to zero,
indicating no consistent bias for either the “top-heavy”
or the “bottom-heavy” conguration. For the adults (the
right graph), the indices for the geometric and face-like
patterns are also close to zero except for the T-shape
gure and the ones that had higher ratings on facedness
scale. Moreover, the indices for photographed upright
faces were positive in both infants and adults, indicating a
clear preference for upright natural faces over inverted or
unnatural ones. To conclude this session, we support the
notion that the non-specific innate bias for “top-heavy”
configuration seems to vanish quickly at about 2 to 3
months of age. From this age on, infants’ preference for
faces is likely to reect a fast learning process specically
tuned to the representations of faces, and not the top-
heavy conguration per se.
Early Specialization Process for Natural
Faces of Own Race
As shown in Figure 6, it is the photographed
upright faces, and not any other kinds of stimuli, the
infants showed a clear preference for. What might be the
implications for that? We consider this is evidence for
a rather fast learning process that is specifically tuned
to upright, natural, or realistic face representation in
early infancy. Several recent studies on developmental
cognitive neuroscience that performed positron emission
tomo g r a p h y (P E T ) scans (Tzourio - M a z o y e r et al.,
2002) or measured event-related potentials (ERPs; Halit
et al., 2003) suggested that the first signs of cortical
specialization for faces can be observed in 2- to 3-month-
old infants. Tzourio-Mazoyer and colleagues (2002)
observed that when looking at unknown women’s faces,
2-month-old infants activated a distributed network
of cortical areas that largely overlapped the adult face
processing network. Moreover, Halit et al. (2003) even
found an ERP component that differentiates human faces
from monkey faces in 3-month-old infants. In other
words, they suggested that “even as young as 3 months of
age, infants show some specialization for human faces,”
although not to the same degree as do older infants or
adults.
In fact, the early face learning process can be
extended to race-specific identity information. Human
adults can better discriminate own-race faces than other-
race faces; this is referred to as the other-race effect (ORE;
Meissner & Brigham, 2001). An early onset of ORE has
been observed in 3- or 4-month-old Caucasian infants
(Hayden, Bhatt, Joseph, & Tanaka, 2007; Kelly et al.,
2005; Sangrigoli & de Schonen, 2004) and in similarly
aged Asian infants (Chien & Hsu, 2010; Hsu & Chien,
2011; Kelly, Liu, et al., 2007). This indicates a very early
influence of the race-typical stimuli in the environment
on face processing (Elman et al., 1996). For example,
Sangrigoli and de Schonen (2004) used the novelty
preference paradigm to assess Caucasian 3-month-old
infants’ recognition for Caucasian faces and Asiatic faces.
They found that infants showed a better recognition for
Caucasian than for Asiatic faces. Kelly et al. (2005) used
spontaneous preference paradigm found that 3-month-
old infants had a preference for their own-race face,
but newborn infants did not. Kelly, Quinn, et al. (2007)
further used visual-paired comparison (VPC) method to
test 3-, 6-, and 9-month-old Caucasian infants. They found
that 3-month-olds can discriminate both own- and other-
race faces while 9-month-olds can only discriminate their
own-race faces. However, the results of discrimination
capability at a younger age seems to contradict with other
studies showing an own race advantage or preference
(Hayden et al., 2007; Kelly et al., 2005; Sangrigoli & de
Schonen, 2004).
In a recent study investigating more rened aspects
of face processing, Hsu and Chien (2011) explored
08-Chien.indd 106 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
Early Specialization for Face and Race 107
whether the other-race effect exists in Taiwanese infants
aged between 4 and 9 months when the visual system is
still maturing. As shown in Figure 7A, the face stimuli
were collected from three races (Asian, Caucasian, and
African). There are three levels of difficulty in the face
discrimination task: easy, medium and hard conditions.
In the easy condition, the novel face was changed to a
different person’s face. In the medium condition, the
novel face was the same one but with eyes changed and
mouth moved up. In the hard condition, the novel face
was the same one but with mouth moved up. The visual
paired-comparison (VPC) task was adopted to assess
A.
Level
Race
Familiarized face
Easy
(change identity)
Medium
(eyes changed,
mouth moved up)
Hard
(mouth moved up)
Asian
Caucasian
African
B.
Own-race Other-race
Asian Caucasian African
Easy Medium Hard Easy Medium Hard Easy Medium Hard
4-mo P
6-mo PPP
9-mo P P P P P
Figure 7. The own-race and other-race faces and the main ndings in Hsu and Chien (2011). Panel (A): The
stimuli contained female/male faces of three ethnic groups (Asian, Caucasian, and African) only
male faces are shown here. Three levels of difculty in stimulus discriminability are adopted (i.e.,
easy, medium and hard). (Note that in Panel (A) two faces are shown in mosaic for image privacy
protection). Panel (B): The pattern of discriminability for own-race and other-race faces in 4-, 6-,
and 9-month-old infants. The cells with check marks represent positive results of discriminability.
4-month-old infants can only discriminate the Asian “easy” faces; 6-month-old infants can
discriminate all three race faces in the easy conditions; 9-month-old infants can further discriminate
Asian and Caucasian faces in the medium conditions, but stay at the easy condition for African faces.
08-Chien.indd 107 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
108 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
4-, 6-, and 9-month-old infants’ discriminability for the
familiar/novel faces through recording infant’s looking
behavior (e.g., total l ookin g time, eye gazes). Figu re
7B illustrates the main results for the three age groups.
Contrary to Kelly, Quinn, et al. (2007) main ndings, Hsu
and Chien (2011) found that 4-month-old infants can only
discriminate Asian “easy” faces, 6-month-old infants can
discriminate “easy” faces of all three ethnic groups, and
9-month-old infants can further discriminate “medium”
Asian and Caucasian faces but not “medium” African
faces. In conclusion, we found that own-race advantage
emerges around 4 months of age, while other-race effect
may take place between 6 and 9 months. Taken together,
these ndings suggest a mixture of general improvement
in face processing ability as well as a specic tuning and
facilitative effect by the own-race experience in the rst
year of life.
General Discussions
Despite of the relatively poor vision at birth, human
infants are born with a predisposition to attend to human
faces or face-like stimuli. In this review article, we started
out highlighting the main findings for the neonatal face
preference studies, and then discussed three broad views,
the sensory hypothesis, the conguration hypothesis, and
the non-specific perceptual bias hypothesis to explain
neonatal face preference. The concept of visibility of the
sensory hypothesis is indispensible as the stimuli have to
be at least “visible” to attract infants’ attention. However,
beyond considering the subjective visibility, some built-
in preference for face-like structure or configuration is
also present at birth. Whether the preference is driven by
the faceness” itself or something more general in the
face-like structure is the heart of the debate. The core
difference between Johnson and Morton’s model and
Turati’s top-heavy bias hypothesis lies in the nature of
initial representation. The former hypothesizes a domain-
specic bias towards face representation, while the latter
proclaimed that a non-specic perceptual bias is sufcient
to attract newborns to attend to various classes of visual
stimuli including faces per se.
If Top-Heavy Bias Is Short-Lived, Why Is It
Present at the First Place?
It is really not the purpose of this review to settle the
dispute about whether the initial representation is domain-
specific (face-specific) or non-specific at birth. Rather,
what we try to paint is the larger picture showing that a
specialized cognitive system seems to operate at the very
beginning of life, and a fast learning process develops
when the visual system starts to gain more experiences.
Thus in the third section, we illustrated the deeper issues
regarding the developmental trajectory and the strength of
the top-heavy configuration bias. Using a forced-choice
novelty preference method, we (Chien et al., 2010) found
that 2.5- to 4.5-month-old infants showed significant
and equal novelty preferences, suggesting a reliable
discriminability between the two configurations, which
indicates that the so-called top-heavy perceptual bias is no
longer present at 2.5 months of age. Moreover, using an
eye-tracker, we (Chien, 2011) further investigated whether
the top-heavy bias is still present in 3- to 5.5-month
olds and in adults as a comparison group, and found no
evidence for the top-heavy bias in both infants and adults.
The absence of top-heavy bias plus a clear preference for
photographed upright faces in infants seems to suggest a
very early cognitive specialization process toward face
representation.
However, one may ask such a question: If the top-
heavy bias is short-lived, why is it present at the first
place? In our view, the theoretical implication for the
top-heavy bias account for neonatal face preference
is profound. This hypothesis needs not to assume the
existence of a specific innate subcortical or cortical
representational bias toward faces; it provides a simpler
explanation, considering the Occam’s Razor principle
of model comparison. In addition, newborns’ vision is
very poor; the presence of the top-heavy bias at birth
serves as the earliest basis of face preference. This bias
rests on general functioning of the visual system and
directs newborns to attend to visual stimuli containing
such configuration including faces. What is more
important, however, once infants start to gain more visual
experiences, the top-heavy bias is quickly replaced by
a true preference towards the more refined real-face
08-Chien.indd 108 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
Early Specialization for Face and Race 109
representation. In other words, the top-heavy bias is only
suited for the very beginning stage, which is somewhat
like the role of radial glia cells as a to-be-discarded
precursor in neurogenesis.
The Early Face and Race Specialization
Supports the Experience-Expectant
Perspective
In the forth section, we highlighted a few
developmental cognitive neuroscience studies showing
evidence for early cortical specialization for detecting
faces. Moreover, young infants’ preference for up-right
real faces is not only identity-specific, but even race-
sensitive. When shown own-race faces paired with other-
race faces, newborn infants demonstrated no spontaneous
preference for faces from their own ethnic group.
However, at about 3 months of age, infants displayed
a spontaneous looking preference for own-race faces,
a finding that applies to both Caucasian and Chinese
infants (Kelly et al., 2005; Kelly, Liu, et al., 2007).
Using more elaborated face-discrimination task, Hsu and
Chien (2011) found 4-month-old Taiwanese infants can
only discriminate own-race “easy faces and not other-
race “easy” faces, indicating an early emergence of own-
race advantage. Moreover, 6-month-old infants can
discriminate “easy” faces of all three ethnic groups, while
9-month-old infants can further progress to discriminate
“medium” Asian and Caucasian faces but not “medium”
African faces. Taken together, these findings suggest
a mixture of general improvement in face processing
ability from non-specic to specic (Slater et al., 2010),
as well as a tuning and facilitative effect by the own-
race experience (Hsu & Chien, 2011). Well, what might
all these race-specic effects tell us about the process of
early face development?
In a recent review chapter, de Haan and Halit (2001)
broadly distinguished three major approaches regarding
the developmental origins of face processing. The first
view argues that the development of face specialization
is an experience-independent (Farah, Rabinowitz, Quinn,
& Liu, 2000). Owing to the high relevance of faces in
human lives, natural selection has led to the evolution
of innate face-specific devices that are available prior
to a ny postnatal perceptual experience. Accord ing t o
this view, the functional and anatomical distinction that
characterizes face processing is supposed to be “explicitly
specied in the genome.” The second view characterizes
such process as experience-dependent (e.g., Diamond &
Carey, 1986; Gauthier & Logothetis, 2000). For human
beings, extensive and prolonged experience with faces
would gradually make humans exceptional experts in
recognizing individual exemplars (faces). According
to this approach, general learning processes, which can
occur at any time during development and might involve
any class of visual stimuli, are sufficient to explain the
emergence of a cortical system that processes faces
efficiently. In other words, an innate device for face
processing is not necessary at all.
In fact, we have shown solid evidence for neonatal
face preference as well as a particular tuning effect by
own-race face experience in early infancy; our position is
neither the experience-independent, nor the experience-
dependent approach, but the so called experience-
expectant view (Nelson, 2001, 2003). This approach
is neither extremely innate nor completely acquired; it
considers that the development of face processing shall
be explained as an experience-expectant process which
emphasizes the interactions between the innate propensity
and the proper environmental stimulation at the right
time. Through evolutionary pressures, the cortical tissue
has gained the potential to become specialized for face
processing. However, this specialization would not
emerge unless the critical inputs (e.g., human faces)
are provided within the crucial time windows. More
specifically, the partial functioning of neural pathways
would shape subsequent development of neural circuits,
resulting in the progressive tuning of certain cerebral
tissues to be specialized in processing faces (Johnson &
de Haan, 2001; Nelson, 2001, 2003). As infants build
on more and more specic visual experiences relating to
faces, these cortical issues may further differentiate into
subareas for refined processes of identity information
such as race, gender, and age.
08-Chien.indd 109 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:29
110 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
Conclusion and Future Directions
The multifaceted task of face recognition is
intriguing, complex, and undoubtedly important in
everyday living. In adults, convergent evidence from
behavioral, electrophysiological, and imaging studies
provide strong evidence for a highly specialized neural
architecture that is dedicated to processing faces. In
infants, a body of research demonstrates that newborns
show a significant preference for face and face-like
stimuli. Regardless of whether the initial representation is
face-specic or non-specic at birth, the studies described
in this review converge to reveal that a specialized
cognitive system for processing and learning naturalistic,
race-typical faces quickly unfold as infants gain more
visual experience.
Presently, it remains unclear that what kinds of face
processing mechanisms (for example, the configural or
featural processing) that infants at different ages may
utilize and how might them differ from those of adults.
One promising solution in the near future would be to
design experiments that can directly compare infants’
performance with adults’ performance in sensible ways. A
second promising research direction would be to study the
atypical development of face processing such as infants
who may be at risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In
the recent years, increasingly more evidence has revealed
that face processing ability in ASD infants seems to
impair, and which can be a hint for an early detection of
ASD infants before the age of language explosion. This
is a new focus with great clinical value. As the ability to
attend and respond properly to information contained in
human faces forms the very foundation for later social
and cognitiv e develo pment, i t is of great importa nce
to understand the normal as well as the abnormal
development of face processing in infancy.
Endnote
1. It is known that the development of nasal hemifield lagged behind
that of the temporal hemield in infants. Lewis and Maurer (1992)
proposed that the temporal-nasal asymmetry was due to a later
maturation of projections from cortex to the nucleus of the optic tract,
which governs nasally directed eye movement. An earlier maturation
of direct colliculular input would be associated with temporally
directed eye movements. Thus, a temporal-nasal asymmetry of rapid
orienting to faces or face-like stimuli (Simion et al., 1995; Tomalski,
Johnson, & Csibra, 2009) have been reported and attributed to
rel at ively matu re su bcort ic al vi sual route (proje ction to su perio r
colliculus) at birth.
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114 Sarina Hui-Lin Chien Hsin Yueh Hsu
上重偏好不再:嬰兒的早期臉孔與種族專化歷程
簡惠玲 許馨月
中國醫藥大學神經科學與認知科學研究所
本文主要目的在回顧嬰兒對於臉孔和種族的知覺發展的早期專化歷程。我們首先回顧探討新生兒臉孔偏好的
幾篇經典研究,接著進一步介紹解釋此臉孔偏好的三大理論取向,包括八零年代的「線性模式取向的感官假說」、
九零年代的嬰兒對「特定臉孔表徵的先天性偏好理論」,以及近十年內Turati 等人主張的「非特定的知覺偏好理
論」。本文的第三部分深入討論Turati等人的「上重偏好假說」的一些限制與相關的後續研究,利用強迫選擇新奇
偏好注視法和眼動追蹤儀,我們重新檢驗此假說並發現二、三個月大的嬰兒並未顯現出上重偏好;表示此非特定的
上重結構的偏好可能只是個很短暫的趨力,當嬰兒開始累積視覺經驗,他們會轉而傾向去注意到真正的臉孔表徵。
本文的第四大段闡述生命早期的臉孔學習與專化歷程,除了回顧來自於神經生理方面的支持證據外,也探討嬰兒對
於臉孔的種族訊息的敏感度如「他種族效應」的研究。「他種族效應」的研究結果發現,三個月大的嬰兒較偏好自
己種族的臉孔,而我們研究台灣地區四到九個月大的嬰兒辨識不同種族臉孔的能力,發現嬰兒且辨識自己種族臉孔
的能力會最早出現,且會隨著年齡增長而有所精進;而辨認他種族的能力會較晚出現且進步有限。整體而言,綜觀
我們所回顧的西方文獻與本土的研究,本論文支持早期臉孔知覺發展與專化的「經驗─期待」觀點。
關鍵詞:他種族效應、先天性偏好、新生兒、經驗─期待、臉孔處理
08-Chien.indd 114 2012/3/22 下午 02:45:30
... schematic faces face-like patterns Fantz, 1958;Goren et al., 1975;Johnson et al., 1991;Valenza et al., 1996Pascalis et al., 1995 topheavy configuration bias Simion et al., 2001;Turati, 2004Chien et al., 2010Chien, 2011;Chien & Hsu, 2012 configural holistic processing Yin 1969 face inversion effect inverted faces Carey Diamond 1977 piecemeal configural featural Sergent, 1984;Diamond & Carey, 1986 Ta n a k a S a n g c o 1 9 9 7 p a r t -w h o l e paradigm scrambled face Johnson et al., 1991;Mondloch et al., 1999;Yin, 1969 16 · Giuseppe Arcimboldo Vegetable Gardener, c.1590 Maurer et al., 2002, p. 256, Figure 1 secondorder relations eye spacing Bruce et al., 1991;Tanaka & Sengco, 1997Mondloch et al., 2002 Jane's sisters holistic processing "gluing together the features into a gestalt" Rossion, 2013;Young et al., 1987 composite face effect Maurer et al., 2002, p. 256, Figure 2 Campbell et al., 1995Carey & Diamond, 1977, 1994McKone & Boyer, 2006;Mondloch et al., 2002;Schwarzer, 2000;Taylor et al., 2004Gilchrist & McKone, 2003 (1) furthermore, the link between face processing and empathy in children is less well-understood. The present study investigated the development of featural and configural processing in Taiwanese children; we also explored the association between individuals' empathy, gender, and their face recognition performance. ...
... Unlike the perception of inanimate objects, face perception is unique to human beings. Developmental studies have revealed that newborn infants are attracted to faces or face-like patterns even though their vision is relatively poor (Fantz, 1958;Goren, Sarty, & Wu, 1975;Johnson, Dziurawiec, Ellis, & Morton, 1991;Valenza, Simion, Macchi Cassia, & Umilta, 1996;Turati & Valenza, 2001;Turati, 2004;Chien & Hsu, 2012). Moreover, face recognition not only involves identifying the shapes of individual features (eyes, nose), but also engages the so-called holistic or configural processing capabilities that humans possess to assess the spatial relationships among facial features (Yin, 1969;Carey & Diamond, 1977;Sergent, 1984;. ...
Article
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Face perception involves both configural and featural processing. The developmental progression of configural versus featural processing in childhood remains debated. To date, most studies focused on western children; furthermore, the link between face processing and empathy in children is less well-understood. The present study investigated the development of featural and configural processing in Taiwanese children; we also explored the association between individuals’ empathy, gender, and their face recognition performance. We tested 33 Taiwanese adults and 72 7- to 12-year-old children. Each participant received an Empathy Quotient (EQ) questionnaire and a computerized face discrimination task, which included four conditions (by altering a featural or a configural information): change identity, change eyes, widen eye spacing, and move up mouth. The results showed that (1) the accuracy of the “change identity” was the highest, followed by the “change eyes,” the “widen eye spacing,” and the “move up mouth” conditions. (2) Girls performed better than boys, but female and male adults were about equal. (3) Adults performed better than children in almost all conditions, except that the 11-12-year-old girls’ accuracies on the “change eyes” and the “widen eye spacing” conditions were no different from the adults’. (4) Girls had a higher EQ score than boys, but women and men had similar EQ scores, and the correlations were higher with the Caucasian faces. In sum, our study suggests that in school-age children, girls had higher empathy and better face recognition accuracy than boys; 11-12-year-old girls were particularly mature. Meanwhile, the majority of children still performed significantly worse than the adults, meaning that children’s configural and featural face processing continues to improve in adolescence.
... core knowledge system Spelke, 2004;Spelke & Kinzler, 2007 object agents goal-oriented action number space social partners cooperation reciprocity group cohesion form attend to coalitions Cosmides & Tooby, 2003 in-group out-group race-based preference e.g. Baron & Banaji, 2006 other-race-effect ORE face recognition or discrimination race categorization bias own-race advantage ORA own-race faces other-race faces Meissner & Brigham, 2001 monorace biracial 50% 50% morphing face Peery & Bodenhausen, 2008 40 robust reliable Meissner & Brigham, 2001 in-group vs. out-group 3 ~ 4 Kelly et al., 2005;Kelly et al, 2007aKelly et al, , 2011Chien & Hsu, 2012;Chien, Wang, & Huang, 2016;Hayden, Bhatt, Joseph, & Tanaka, 2007;Sangrigoli & De Schonen, 2004;Tham, Bremner, & Hay, 2015 6 ~ 9 Chien et al., 2016;Chien, 2018;Kelly et al., 2007b;Kelly et al., 2009;Sugden & Marquis, 2017 3 ~ 6 7 ~ 8 race-based social preference 2017 Kinzler & Spelke, 2011Gaither et al., 2014Pauker et al., 2009;Peery & Bodenhausen, 2008 Peery (2) coalitional byproduct hypothesis coalitional psychology Kurzban, 2001 (3) essentialism byproduct hypothesis essentialist inference system Rothbart & Taylor, 1990Gigerenzer, Hoffrage, & Kleinbölting, 1991 The results showed that, as the Asian face component increased, the participants were more likely to categorize the morphed face as Asian. Importantly, for the 50% Asian/White racially ambiguous faces: 7-8 year-olds categorized the faces as Asian whereas 9-10 year-olds, 11-12 year-olds, and adults categorized the face as White. ...
Article
Full-text available
The broadly defined other-race effect (ORE) refers to differential processing for own- and other-race faces, such as own-race face recognition advantage and categorization bias for racially ambiguous faces. The present study adopted bi-racial (East Asian and Caucasian) morph face images as stimuli, aiming to explore the development of race categorization in Taiwanese school-age children and adults. In Experiment 1, we tested 33 adults (17 females) on their race categorization of Asian/White morphed faces. In Experiment 2, we tested 65 school-age children (34 girls), divided into three age groups, 7-8 year-olds (N = 21), 9-10 year-olds (N = 22), and 11-12 year-olds (N = 22), with the same task. The morphed face stimuli contained 11 levels (from A100/C0 (100% Asian) to A0/C100 (100% White) in 10% increment); both children and adults were asked to categorize each of the morphed faces as either Asian or Caucasian. The results showed that, as the Asian face component increased, the participants were more likely to categorize the morphed face as Asian. Importantly, for the 50% Asian/White racially ambiguous faces: 7-8 year-olds categorized the faces as Asian whereas 9-10 year-olds, 11-12 year-olds, and adults categorized the face as White. Moreover, the reaction times for the morphed faces of nearly equal Asian and White components (e.g., A50/C50 or A60/C40) were the longest among all, indicating that those faces were rather difficult to categorize. Lastly, we adopted curve fitting (using a 4-parameter sigmoidal function) to estimate individuals’ threshold of the Asian component for categorizing as “Asian.” The adults’ group mean threshold was 56.01%; the group mean thresholds of 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12 year-olds were 49.52%, 54.27%, and 53.13%, respectively, showing a tendency of increasing threshold from age 7 to 12. In summary, our findings provide a cross-cultural comparison on the development of race categorization in school-age children.
... Likewise, 3-mo-old Chinese infants showed spontaneous looking preferences for Chinese faces [15]. Studies based on the familiarization/novelty preference procedure and with cropped faces (i.e., without external facial cues) revealed that infants at 3 or 4 months are readily better at differentiating among own-race faces than other-race faces [16][17][18][19][20], and the early own-race discrimination advantage maybe gender-dependent that at 3-4 months, infants showed an ORA for female faces only [21]. On the other hand, studies based on habituation paradigm and with non-cropped full faces showed that the other-race effect is absent at 3 months and seems to emerge between 3 and 9 months [22,23]; by 9 months of age, infants become unable to discriminate faces from other races (see a different interpretation by Markant et al [24]). ...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies examining the other-race effect in school-age children mostly focused on recognition memory performance. Here we investigated perceptual discriminability for Asian-like versus Caucasian-like morph faces in school-age Taiwanese children and adults. One-hundred-and-two 5- to 12-year-old children and twenty-three adults performed a sequential same/different face matching task, where they viewed an Asian- or a Caucasian-parent face followed by either the same parent face or a different morphed face (containing 15%, 30%, 45%, or 60% contribution from the other parent face) and judged if the two faces looked the same. We computed the d’ as the sensitivity index for each age groups. We also analyzed the group mean rejection rates as a function of the morph level and fitted with a cumulative normal distribution function. Results showed that the adults and the oldest 11-12-year-old children exhibited a greater sensitivity (d’) and a smaller discrimination threshold (μ) in the Asian-parent condition than those in the Caucasian-parent condition, indicating the presence of an own-race advantage. On the contrary, 5- to 10-year-old children showed an equal sensitivity and similar discrimination thresholds for both conditions, indicating an absence of the own-race advantage. Moreover, a gradual development in enhancing the discriminability for the Asian-parent condition was observed from age 5 to 12; however, the progression in the Caucasian-parent condition was less apparent. In sum, our findings suggest that expertise in face processing may take the entire childhood to develop, and supports the perceptual learning view of the other-race effect—the own-race advantage seen in adulthood likely reflects a result of prolonged learning specific to faces most commonly seen in one’s visual environment such as own-race faces.
... 个体的不同也是人类婴幼儿心智发展之初的两个重要核心知识(core knowledge) (Spelke & Kinzler, 2007)。 关于有生命的个体,脸孔是识别个体身分与情绪的重要线索,而个体的生物性运动(biological motion)则 是解析其动作、或意图动向(intention)的重要指标;这两者都具有高度的社会性意涵,在不破坏其组态的 情况下,一般人多能非常有效率的处理并解读这些信息。尤有甚者,人类脸孔知觉是高度专化的能力; 即便视网膜的功能仍不成熟 (Atkinson, 1984;Teller, 1997),婴儿从呱呱落地即开始喜欢注视脸孔。自 70 年代起,发展心理学家观察到新生儿喜欢注视类似脸的图形(face-like patterns) (Goren, Sarty, & Wu, 1975;Johnson, Dziurawiec, Ellis, & Morton, 1991),或是偏好符合上重构形式的图案(top-heavy configuration) (Simion, Macchi Cassia, Turati, & Valenza, 2001;Turati, 2004;Chien, 2011;Chien & Hsu, 2012),似乎也能透 过发际线分辨母亲与陌生人脸孔 (Pascalis, de Schonen, Morton, Deruelle, & Fabre-Grenet, 1995 (Senju, Tojo, Dairoku, & Hasegawa, 2004;Senju, Yaguchi, Tojo, & Hasegawa, 2003),视觉扫描脸孔的特异 (Osterling, Dawson, & Munson, 2002;Klin, Jones, Schultz, Volkmar, & Cohen, 2002),以及不同脸孔身分的辨识困难 (Gepner, de Gelder, & de Schonen, 1996;Faja, Aylward, Bernier, & Dawson, 2008;Joseph, Ehrman, McNally, & Keehn, 2008 Table 7. The analysis of the error types in the morphed face and object card ordering ...
Article
Full-text available
Successful recognition of faces and objects surrounding us is fundamental to survival. Previous studies showed that healthy adults performed better than individuals with autism on face recognition , but not on object recognition. However, the evidence has been inconclusive. The present study investigated the perceptual sensitivity on face and object discrimination in Taiwanese adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) and age-matched healthy controls. We adopted two tasks: the AQ questionnaire and a morphed card-ordering task (7 sets of morphed-images of faces (4 sets) and objects (3 sets)). We recruited 26 AS/HFA adults (mean AQ score = 37.58) and 26 healthy controls (mean AQ score = 21.08). Results showed that in the morphing-face-ordering task, the AS/HFA exhibited a marginally higher accuracy, and the error pattern was similar to that of the healthy controls. In the morphing-object-ordering task, the AS/HFA adults exhibited a significantly higher accuracy, and the pattern of errors was more restricted than that of the healthy control. Our finding reveals that, comparing to the healthy adults, the AS/HFA group performed better on detecting subtle changes in the object stimuli, while performed equally well on the face stimuli. This suggests that the AS/HFA group may have adopted a feature-based strategy to process images of morphed objects and faces.
... 个体的不同也是人类婴幼儿心智发展之初的两个重要核心知识(core knowledge) (Spelke & Kinzler, 2007)。 关于有生命的个体,脸孔是识别个体身分与情绪的重要线索,而个体的生物性运动(biological motion)则 是解析其动作、或意图动向(intention)的重要指标;这两者都具有高度的社会性意涵,在不破坏其组态的 情况下,一般人多能非常有效率的处理并解读这些信息。尤有甚者,人类脸孔知觉是高度专化的能力; 即便视网膜的功能仍不成熟 (Atkinson, 1984;Teller, 1997),婴儿从呱呱落地即开始喜欢注视脸孔。自 70 年代起,发展心理学家观察到新生儿喜欢注视类似脸的图形(face-like patterns) (Goren, Sarty, & Wu, 1975;Johnson, Dziurawiec, Ellis, & Morton, 1991),或是偏好符合上重构形式的图案(top-heavy configuration) (Simion, Macchi Cassia, Turati, & Valenza, 2001;Turati, 2004;Chien, 2011;Chien & Hsu, 2012),似乎也能透 过发际线分辨母亲与陌生人脸孔 (Pascalis, de Schonen, Morton, Deruelle, & Fabre-Grenet, 1995 (Senju, Tojo, Dairoku, & Hasegawa, 2004;Senju, Yaguchi, Tojo, & Hasegawa, 2003),视觉扫描脸孔的特异 (Osterling, Dawson, & Munson, 2002;Klin, Jones, Schultz, Volkmar, & Cohen, 2002),以及不同脸孔身分的辨识困难 (Gepner, de Gelder, & de Schonen, 1996;Faja, Aylward, Bernier, & Dawson, 2008;Joseph, Ehrman, McNally, & Keehn, 2008 Table 7. The analysis of the error types in the morphed face and object card ordering ...
... Taken together, these findings collectively demonstrated early ORA at about 3 or 4 months, at least for female faces. In addition, Hsu and Chien (2011) further revealed that the continued experience with own-race faces may help facilitate infant's ability to process finer facial features as they grow (also see Chien and Hsu, 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Previous infant studies on the other-race effect have favored the perceptual narrowing view, or declined sensitivities to rarely exposed other-race faces. Here we wish to provide an alternative possibility, perceptual learning, manifested by improved sensitivity for frequently exposed own-race faces in the first year of life. Using the familiarization/visual-paired comparison paradigm, we presented 4-, 6-, and 9-month-old Taiwanese infants with oval-cropped Taiwanese, Caucasian, Filipino faces, and each with three different manipulations of increasing task difficulty (i.e., change identity, change eyes, and widen eye spacing). An adult experiment was first conducted to verify the task difficulty. Our results showed that, with oval-cropped faces, the 4 month-old infants could only discriminate Taiwanese “change identity” condition and not any others, suggesting an early own-race advantage at 4 months. The 6 month-old infants demonstrated novelty preferences in both Taiwanese and Caucasian “change identity” conditions, and proceeded to the Taiwanese “change eyes” condition. The 9-month-old infants demonstrated novelty preferences in the “change identity” condition of all three ethnic faces. They also passed the Taiwanese “change eyes” condition but could not extend this refined ability of detecting a change in the eyes for the Caucasian or Philippine faces. Taken together, we interpret the pattern of results as evidence supporting perceptual learning during the first year: the ability to discriminate own-race faces emerges at 4 months and continues to refine, while the ability to discriminate other-race faces emerges between 6 and 9 months and retains at 9 months. Additionally, the discrepancies in the face stimuli and methods between studies advocating the narrowing view and those supporting the learning view were discussed.
... The multifaceted task of face recognition is complex and undoubtedly important in everyday living. Convergent evidence from behavioral, electrophysiological, brain imaging and developmental studies provide solid evidence for a highly specialized neural circuit dedicated to native expert face processing and such expertise seems to develop early (Anzures et al., 2013;Slater et al., 2010;Chien & Hsu, 2012). For typically developing children, substantial experience with own-race faces helps fine-tune the system to better discriminate own-race faces than other-race faces in early childhood and beyond. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Background: The other-race effect (ORE) is a widely known observation that we can recognize own-race faces better than other-race faces (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). The face processing deficit in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is broadly studied; however, the aspect regarding race sensitivity in autistic children’s face processing is relatively unexplored. The present study aims to explore the pattern of other-race effect in children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing (TD) match group. Methods: 18 ASD (mean age = 7.5 yrs) and 13 TD age-matched children ( mean age = 7.6 yrs) participated the study. The face stimuli contained female faces of three races (Asian, Caucasian, African) and each with four levels of difficulty: Easy (change identity), Medium (change component: replaced eyes), Hard-eye (change configuration: widen eye spacing), and Hard-mouth (change configuration: moved up mouth). The visual paired-comparison old/new face task with two-alternative-forced-choice (2AFC) procedure was adopted. There were a total of 72 trials. 5 ASD children were excluded due to their inability to complete the experiment. Results: In the TD group, we found that the accuracy decreased and response time increased as the stimulus difficulty increased for each race. They also showed a moderate own-race advantage that the best performances (highest accuracy and lowest RT) were found in the Asian face across conditions. This finding was consistent with our previous adult studies. In the ASD group, however, we did not find an own-race advantage for the Asian faces at all. In addition, contrary to TD group, the highest error occurred in the Hard-eye condition rather than the Hard-mouth condition. The performance for the Medium condition was also significantly lower than that of the TD group, indicating a deficit in processing eye feature. In sum, our findings suggest that ASD children did not exhibit own race advantage.
... The multifaceted task of face recognition is complex and undoubtedly important in everyday living. Convergent evidence from behavioral, electrophysiological, brain imaging and developmental studies provide solid evidence for a highly specialized neural circuit dedicated to native expert face processing and such expertise seems to develop early (Anzures et al., 2013;Slater et al., 2010;Chien & Hsu, 2012). For typically developing children, substantial experience with own-race faces helps fine-tune the system to better discriminate own-race faces than other-race faces in early childhood and beyond. ...
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... As already mentioned, 3-month-old infants, but not newborns, show a preference for faces of their own race over other races. A few studies have suggested the existence of an own-race recognition advantage at approximately 3 months of age (Chien & Hsu, 2012;Hayden, Bhatt, Joseph, & Tanaka, 2007;. The findings from these studies are consistent with findings from preferential looking studies that report an attentional bias toward own-race faces at around this age (Bar-Haim et al., 2006;Kelly et al., 2005, and with the finding that 3-to 4-month-old infants show discrimination advantages for faces of the same gender as the main caretaker (Quinn et al., 2002). ...
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