Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)




Daphne Maurer


Laurel Trainor



Committee Member

Mel Rutherford


To assess how the plasticity of the face processing system changes with age, we trained 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds, and adults to differentiate 10 chimpanzee faces at the individual level for 3 days by having them watch a child-friendly training video. Their improvement from baseline was compared to that of age- and gender-matched controls who completed the pre- and post-tests, but did not complete training. Improvement did not vary across age: 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds, and adults all showed similar improvement in accuracy at discriminating the 10 chimpanzee faces on which they were trained. This improvement resulted in the reduction of the own-species bias after training. However, the benefits of training did not generalize to novel exemplars. In addition, participants from both the training and control groups showed a practice effect: their accuracy at discriminating both chimpanzee and human faces improved from pre- to post-test. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the face processing system is somewhat plastic between 8 years of age and adulthood and suggest that this plasticity remains stable throughout this period of development.

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