The development of perceptual sensitivity to second-order facial relations in children.
This study investigated children's perceptual ability to process second-order facial relations. In total, 78 children in three age groups (7, 9, and 11 years) and 28 adults were asked to say whether the eyes were the same distance apart in two side-by-side faces. The two faces were similar on all points except the space between the eyes, which was either the same or different, with various degrees of difference. The results showed that the smallest eye spacing children were able to discriminate decreased with age. This ability was sensitive to face orientation (upright or upside-down), and this inversion effect increased with age. It is concluded here that, despite early sensitivity to configural/holistic information, the perceptual ability to process second-order relations in faces improves with age and constrains the development of the face recognition ability.