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Brain responses reveal that infants’ face discrimination is guided by statistical learning from distributional information

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Altvater-Mackensen,  Nicole
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Jessen,  Sarah
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Altvater-Mackensen, N., Jessen, S., & Grossmann, T. (2017). Brain responses reveal that infants’ face discrimination is guided by statistical learning from distributional information. Developmental Science, 20(2): e12393. doi:10.1111/desc.12393.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-018F-6
Abstract
Infants' perception of faces becomes attuned to the environment during the first year of life. However, the mechanisms that underpin perceptual narrowing for faces are only poorly understood. Considering the developmental similarities seen in perceptual narrowing for faces and speech and the role that statistical learning has been shown to play for speech, the current study examined whether and how learning from distributional information impacts face identity discrimination. We familiarized 6.5-month-old infants with exemplars of female faces taken from a morphed continuum going from one identity to another. Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), we show that only infants who were familiarized with a bimodal frequency distribution, but not infants familiarized with a unimodal frequency distribution, discriminated between identities. These results are the first to demonstrate the influence of probabilistic information on infants' face identity discrimination, suggesting that statistical learning contributes to perceptual attunement for both faces and language.