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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

People have an impressive ability to discriminate and recognize thousands of faces despite their similarity as visual patterns. In this chapter I ask how this is possible, focusing on how faces are mentally represented and whether specialized mechanisms contribute. I consider why unfamiliar faces can be surprisingly difficult to recognize, and why unfamiliar other-race faces can be even more difficult to recognize. I examine the mounting evidence for individual differences in face recognition ability and how these might help us understand face expertise. I ask why newborns have a visual bias for faces, how this bias interacts with early experience, whether there are sensitive periods for acquiring face expertise, and why face recognition performance does not reach adult levels until adolescence. I briefly consider the neural basis of face recognition, although readers are directed elsewhere for a comprehensive treatment of neural mechanisms. Finally, I offer some suggestions for future research directions.

Keywords: face recognition, face perception, holistic coding, configural coding, norm-based coding, other-race effect, development of face expertise

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