A critical period for faces: Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact

Elinor McKone, Lulu Wan, Madeleine Pidcock, Kate Crookes, Katherine Reynolds, Amy Dawel, Evan Kidd, Chiara Fiorentini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Poor recognition of other-race faces is ubiquitous around the world. We resolve a longstanding contradiction in the literature concerning whether interracial social contact improves the other-race effect. For the first time, we measure the age at which contact was experienced. Taking advantage of unusual demographics allowing dissociation of childhood from adult contact, results show sufficient childhood contact eliminated poor other-race recognition altogether (confirming inter-country adoption studies). Critically, however, the developmental window for easy acquisition of other-race faces closed by approximately 12 years of age and social contact as an adult — even over several years and involving many other-race friends — produced no improvement. Theoretically, this pattern of developmental change in plasticity mirrors that found in language, suggesting a shared origin grounded in the functional importance of both skills to social communication. Practically, results imply that, where parents wish to ensure their offspring develop the perceptual skills needed to recognise other-race people easily, childhood experience should be encouraged: just as an English-speaking person who moves to France as a child (but not an adult) can easily become a native speaker of French, we can easily become “native recognisers” of other-race faces via natural social exposure obtained in childhood, but not later.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12820
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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Facial Recognition
Critical Period (Psychology)
Population Groups
France
Language
Parents
Communication
Demography
Recognition (Psychology)

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McKone, E., Wan, L., Pidcock, M., Crookes, K., Reynolds, K., Dawel, A., ... Fiorentini, C. (2019). A critical period for faces: Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact. Scientific Reports, 9(1), [12820]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49202-0
McKone, Elinor ; Wan, Lulu ; Pidcock, Madeleine ; Crookes, Kate ; Reynolds, Katherine ; Dawel, Amy ; Kidd, Evan ; Fiorentini, Chiara. / A critical period for faces : Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact. In: Scientific Reports. 2019 ; Vol. 9, No. 1.
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McKone, E, Wan, L, Pidcock, M, Crookes, K, Reynolds, K, Dawel, A, Kidd, E & Fiorentini, C 2019, 'A critical period for faces: Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact' Scientific Reports, vol. 9, no. 1, 12820. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49202-0

A critical period for faces : Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact. / McKone, Elinor; Wan, Lulu; Pidcock, Madeleine; Crookes, Kate; Reynolds, Katherine; Dawel, Amy; Kidd, Evan; Fiorentini, Chiara.

In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, No. 1, 12820, 01.12.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T2 - Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact

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AU - Pidcock, Madeleine

AU - Crookes, Kate

AU - Reynolds, Katherine

AU - Dawel, Amy

AU - Kidd, Evan

AU - Fiorentini, Chiara

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