Evidence of a shift from featural to configural face processing in infancy


Address for correspondence: Gudrun Schwarzer, University of Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 11, 35394 Giessen, Germany; e-mail: gudrun.schwarzer@psychol.uni-giessen.de


Two experiments examined whether 4-, 6-, and 10-month-old infants process natural looking faces by feature, i.e. processing internal facial features independently of the facial context or holistically by processing the features in conjunction with the facial context. Infants were habituated to two faces and looking time was measured. After habituation they were tested with a habituation face, a switch-face, or a novel face. In the switch-faces, the eyes and mouth of the habituation faces were switched. The results showed that the 4-month-olds processed eyes and mouth by feature, whereas the 10-month-olds processed both features holistically. The 6-month-olds were in a transitional stage where they processed the mouth holistically but the eyes still as a feature. Thus, the results demonstrated a shift from featural to holistic processing in the age range of 4 to 10 months.