Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)

Department

Psychology

Supervisor

Daphne Maurer

Co-Supervisor

Laurel Trainor

Language

English

Committee Member

Mel Rutherford

Abstract

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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