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Development of preferences for differently aged faces of different races

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Social Development

Published online on


Children's experiences with differently aged faces changes in the course of development. During infancy, most faces encountered are adult, however as children mature, exposure to child faces becomes more extensive. Does this change in experience influence preference for differently aged faces? The preferences of children for adult vs. child, and adult vs. infant faces were investigated. Caucasian 3‐ to 6‐year‐olds and adults were presented with adult/child and adult/infant face pairs which were either Caucasian or Asian (race consistent within pairs). Younger children (3–4 years) preferred adults over children whereas older children (5–6 years) preferred children over adults. This preference was only detected for Caucasian faces. These data support a ‘here and now’ model of the development of face age processing from infancy to childhood. In particular, the findings suggest that growing experience with peers influences age preferences and that race impacts on these preferences. In contrast, adults preferred infants and children over adults when the faces were Caucasian or Asian, suggesting an increasing influence of a baby schema, and a decreasing influence of race. The different preferences of younger children, older children, and adults also suggest discontinuity and the possibility of different mechanisms at work during different developmental periods.