The PCA learning effect: An emerging correlate of face memory during childhood
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Human adults implicitly learn the prototype and the principal components of the variability distinguishing faces (Gao & Wilson, 2014). Here we measured the implicit learning effect in adults and 9-year-olds, and with a modified child-friendly procedure, in 7-year-olds. All age groups showed the implicit learning effect by falsely recognizing the average (the prototype effect) and the principal component faces as having been seen (the PCA learning effect). The PCA learning effect, but not the prototype effect increased between 9years of age and adulthood and at both ages was the better predictor of memory for the actually studied faces. In contrast, for the 7-year-olds, the better predictor of face memory was the prototype effect. The pattern suggests that there may be a developmental change between ages 7 and 9 in the mechanism underlying memory for faces. We provide the first evidence that children as young as age 7 can extract the most important dimensions of variation represented by principal components among individual faces, a key ability that grows stronger with age and comes to underlie memory for faces.
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