Holistic processing for faces and cars in preschool-aged children and adults: evidence from the composite effect


Address for correspondence: Viola Macchi Cassia, Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, via dell’Innovazione 10, 20126, Milano, Italy; e-mail: viola.macchicassia@unimib.it


The current study compared the development of holistic processing for faces and non-face visual objects by testing for the composite effect for faces and frontal images of cars in 3- to 5-year-old children and adults in a series of four experiments using a two-alternative forced-choice recognition task. Results showed that a composite effect for faces was present as early as inline image years, and none of the age groups tested showed signs of a composite effect for cars. These findings provide the first demonstration that holistic processing is already selective for faces in early childhood, and confirm existing evidence that sensitivity to holistic information in faces does not increase from 4 years to adulthood.