Developing cultural differences in face processing



Publication Details

Kelly, D., Liu, S., Rodger, H., Miellet, S., Ge, L. & Caldara, R. (2011). Developing cultural differences in face processing. Developmental Science, 14 (5), 1176-1184.


Perception and eye movements are affected by culture. Adults from Eastern societies (e.g. China) display a disposition to process information holistically, whereas individuals from Western societies (e.g. Britain) process information analytically. Recently, this pattern of cultural differences has been extended to face processing. Adults from Eastern cultures fixate centrally towards the nose when learning and recognizing faces, whereas adults from Western societies spread fixations across the eye and mouth regions. Although light has been shed on how adults can fixate different areas yet achieve comparable recognition accuracy, the reason why such divergent strategies exist is less certain. Although some argue that culture shapes strategies across development, little direct evidence exists to support this claim. Additionally, it has long been claimed that face recognition in early childhood is largely reliant upon external rather than internal face features, yet recent studies have challenged this theory. To address these issues, we tested children aged 7-12years of age from the UK and China with an old/new face recognition paradigm while simultaneously recording their eye movements. Both populations displayed patterns of fixations that were consistent with adults from their respective cultural groups, which 'strengthened' across development as qualified by a pattern classifier analysis. Altogether, these observations suggest that cultural forces may indeed be responsible for shaping eye movements from early childhood. Furthermore, fixations made by both cultural groups almost exclusively landed on internal face regions, suggesting that these features, and not external features, are universally used to achieve face recognition in childhood. 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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