Effects of aging on face identification and holistic face processing
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Several studies have shown that face identification accuracy is lower in older than younger adults. This effect of aging might be due to age differences in holistic processing, which is thought to be an important component of human face processing. Currently, however, there is conflicting evidence as to whether holistic face processing is impaired in older adults. The current study therefore re-examined this issue by measuring response accuracy in a 1-of-4 face identification task and the composite face effect (CFE), a common index of holistic processing, in older adults. Consistent with previous reports, we found that face identification accuracy was lower in older adults than in younger adults tested in the same task. We also found a significant CFE in older adults that was similar in magnitude to the CFE measured in younger subjects with the same task. Finally, we found that there was a significant positive correlation between the CFE and face identification accuracy. This last result differs from the results obtained in a previous study that used the same tasks and which found no evidence of an association between the CFE and face identification accuracy in younger adults. Furthermore, the age difference was found with subtraction-, regression-, and ratio-based estimates of the CFE. The current findings are consistent with previous claims that older adults rely more heavily on holistic processing to identify objects in conditions of limited processing resources.
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