Adults are expert at recognizing faces, in part because of exquisite sensitivity to the spacing of facial features. Children are poorer than adults at recognizing facial identity and less sensitive to spacing differences. Here we examined the specificity of the immaturity by comparing the ability of 8-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and adults to discriminate houses differing in the spacing between features versus those differing in the shape of the features themselves. By 8 years of age, children were more accurate for discriminations involving the feature set compared with the spacing set, and the difference in accuracy compared with adults was greater for the spacing set than for the feature set. Importantly, when sets were matched in difficulty for adults, this greater immaturity on the spacing set than on the feature set remained. The results suggest that, at least by age 8, immaturities in sensitivity to the spacing of features may be related to immaturities in general perceptual mechanisms rather than face-specific mechanisms.
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