Author(s): Olivier Pascalis, Xavier de Martin de Vivis, Gizelle Anzures, Paul C Quinn, Alan M Slater
This article reviews the development of the face-processing system from birth, during infancy and through childhood, until it becomes the sophisticated system observed in adults. We begin by discussing the following major theoretical issues concerning the development of face expertise: (1) nature versus nurture or the role of experience in face processing, (2) level of processing (i.e., global, basic, subordinate, individual) and expertise, and (3) type of processing (i.e., holistic, configural, featural). This general overview will be followed by a closer examination of individual studies that investigate the development of face processing. These studies will include a review of (1) development of differential processing of faces and objects, (2) development of differential processing of faces of different species, (3) developmental changes in processing facial identity, and (4) developmental changes in the categorization of faces. Our review of the developmental literature reveals early competence in face-processing abilities with infants presenting a preference for face stimuli and facial discrimination using featural, configural, and holistic cues. This early competence is then later refined as evidenced by age-related changes throughout childhood. Some of the refinements are likely due to the development of general cognitive abilities, whereas some others may be face-specific.