Impaired face detection may explain some but not all cases of developmental prosopagnosia

Kirsten A. Dalrymple, Brad Duchaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Developmental prosopagnosia (DP) is defined by severe face recognition difficulties due to the failure to develop the visual mechanisms for processing faces. The two-process theory of face recognition (Morton & Johnson, 1991) implies that DP could result from a failure of an innate face detection system; this failure could prevent an individual from then tuning higher-level processes for face recognition (Johnson, 2005). Work with adults indicates that some individuals with DP have normal face detection whereas others are impaired. However, face detection has not been addressed in children with DP, even though their results may be especially informative because they have had less opportunity to develop strategies that could mask detection deficits. We tested the face detection abilities of seven children with DP. Four were impaired at face detection to some degree (i.e. abnormally slow, or failed to find faces) while the remaining three children had normal face detection. Hence, the cases with impaired detection are consistent with the two-process account suggesting that DP could result from a failure of face detection. However, the cases with normal detection implicate a higher-level origin. The dissociation between normal face detection and impaired identity perception also indicates that these abilities depend on different neurocognitive processes. We tested the face detection abilities of seven children with developmental prosopagnosia (DP) using two tests of face detection ("faces among non-faces" and "faces among face parts" search tasks). Four of the children with DP were impaired at face detection to some degree, while the remaining three children had normal face detection. We conclude that impaired face detection may explain some, but not all, cases of developmental prosopagnosia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-451
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

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