Holistic Processing of Faces in Preschool Children and Adults

E. Pellicano, Gillian Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Citations (Scopus)


Contrary to the encoding-switch hypothesis, recent research demonstrates that 6-year-olds do not rely solely on parts-based encoding to recognize upright faces. This research shows better recognition of face parts presented in the whole face than in isolation, indicating use of holistic encoding. The present study examined whether children younger than 6 years also recognize faces holistically. Four-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults were administered a part-whole face recognition task. Children below the age of 6 remembered parts from upright faces better when tested in the whole-face context than in isolation. This whole-face advantage did not occur when faces were inverted. Although children showed a smaller inversion decrement than adults and generally performed more poorly than adults, the different age groups showed similar patterns of performance, indicating that young preschoolers, like older children and adults, are able to recognize faces holistically.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-622
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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