Age-related Differences in Processing Face Configuration: The Importance of the Eye Region

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Abstract

Objectives.

Recent research suggests that older adults have difficulties with aspects of configural face processing. The present study examined whether age-related declines in sensitivity to configural face information are dependent on the face region in which configural changes occur.

Method.

Younger and older adults completed a face-matching task that required the detection of configural manipulations to either the eye or the mouth regions of target faces.

Results.

Age-related declines in the ability to detect configural changes were found when the eye region of the face was modified. Importantly, no age-related differences were evident when perceiving similar changes to the mouth region.

Discussion.

Taken together, these findings suggest that age-related differences in sensitivity to configural information are specific to the eye region of the face. The potential implications of these findings for age-related difficulties in interpreting social cues from the eyes are discussed.

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