Age and aging in face perception and memory
Humans are often considered to be experts in face recognition, but such expertise is not comparable for all different classes of faces. For instance, young adults show more accurate memory for own-age faces, whereas a corresponding own-age bias (OAB) has not consistently been observed in elderly participants (Wiese, Schweinberger, & Hansen, 2008). During the first funding period, several experiments were conducted to describe and understand the OAB and its ERP correlates in more detail. For instance, we found that young adult participants show similar recognition memory for young and young middle-aged (up to approximately 45 years) faces, but decreased recognition for older faces, arguing against an interpretation in terms of a social “in-group” bias. Moreover, no OAB for other-race faces was detected, suggesting that belonging to multiple “out-groups” simultaneously does not result in additive disadvantages. In other experiments, an OAB in elderly participants was found to depend on the amount of their contact with own-age compared to younger persons, with those participants who exhibited a predominance of own-age contact also showing respective memory effects.
The research proposed for the second funding period will focus more closely on changes in face processing and memory and corresponding neural correlates with increasing participant age. Accordingly, effects of aging are investigated on (i) perceptual face processing (using categorical adaptation and the composite face effect, which assess holistic face processing), (ii) the acquisition of new representations of faces (by studying face recognition memory and learning), and (iii) the access to semantic and name representations (using semantic priming paradigms and learning studies focusing on face-name and faceoccupation associations). ERP correlates of these respective processing levels (such as N170, N250, and N400, respectively) will also be compared between young and elderly participants. The project contributes to the overall mission of the Research Unit by adding novel and theoretically relevant information about age-related changes at all processing levels suggested by current models of person perception.