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Holistic Face Processing in Newborns, 3-Month-Old Infants, and Adults: Evidence From the Composite Face Effect


  • Research was supported by grants from Ministero dell’Università (2007XFM93B_004) and University of Padua (2007-CPDA075245). We thank Dr. Dalla Barba and the nursing staff at the Pediatric Clinic for their collaboration. Many thanks also to Dr. Bruno Rossion and Dr. Adelaide de Heering for sharing the composite face stimuli, and Jennifer Wagner for English editing.

concerning this article should be addressed to Chiara Turati, Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università degli Studi di Padova Milano-Bicocca, via dell’Innovazione 10, 20126 Milano, Italy. Electronic mail may be sent to


Holistic face processing was investigated in newborns, 3-month-old infants, and adults through a modified version of the composite face paradigm and the recording of eye movements. After familiarization to the top portion of a face, participants (N = 70) were shown 2 aligned or misaligned faces, 1 of which comprised the familiar top part. In the aligned condition, no visual preference was found at any group age. In the misaligned condition, 3-month-olds preferred the face stimulus with the familiar top part, adults preferred the face stimulus with the novel one, and newborns did not manifest any visual preference. Results revealed that both infants’ and adults’ eye movements may be affected by holistic face information and demonstrated holistic face processing in 3-month-olds.