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Proficient use of low spatial frequencies facilitates face memory but shows protracted maturation throughout adolescence

Publication year 2017
Published in Acta Psychologica
Authors J.C. Peters, Chantal Kemner

Face perception is characterized by configural processing, which depends on visual information in the low spatial frequency (LSF) ranges. However, it is unclear whether LSF content is equally important for face memory. The present study investigated how face information in the low and high SF range plays a role in the configural encoding of faces for short-term and long-term recall. Moreover, we examined how SF-dependent face memorization develops in female adolescence, by comparing children (9-10-year-olds), adolescents (12-13-year-olds and 15-16-year-olds), and young adults (21-32-year-olds). Results show that similar to face perception, delayed face recognition was consistently facilitated by LSF content. However, only adults were able to adequately employ configural LSF cues for short-term recall, analogous to the slow maturation of LSF-driven configural face perception reported by previous studies. Moreover, the insensitivity to face inversion of early adolescents revealed their inadequate use of configural face cues regardless of SF availability, corroborating previous reports on an adolescent “dip” in face recognition. Like face perception, face recognition has a protracted maturational course. In (female) adolescence, sensitivity to configural LSF cues is developed, which aids not only configural face perception but also face memorization.

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