Sæther L, Laeng B, 2008, "On facial expertise: Processing strategies of twins’ parents" Perception 37(8) 1227 – 1240
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On facial expertise: Processing strategies of twins’ parents
Line Sæther, Bruno Laeng
Received 2 June 2007, in revised form 11 March 2008
Abstract. Parents of monozygotic twins typically learn to recognise their own children and also to tell them apart on photographs. However, it is unknown whether such exemplar expertise can be generalised to unfamiliar faces of equal similarity (ie other twins). In the present study, parents of monozygotic twins were compared to ‘control’ parents whose children were non-twin siblings. In a same/different task with familiar and unfamiliar twin faces as stimuli, twins’ parents were faster than control parents in distinguishing their own children, but slower when distinguishing unfamiliar twin faces. These unexpected findings can be interpreted as a generalisation of a habitual perceptual strategy that is efficient only with familiar face exemplars. When pictures of the twins’ faces were inverted by 180°, the typical inversion costs for familiar faces were observed, but the twins’ parents recognised unfamiliar twins’ faces better when these were inverted than when upright. This inverted inversion effect could be caused by the high similarity of the face pairs as well as by experience with familiar faces of equally high similarity. We conclude that the facial expertise of twins’ parents is idiosyncratic to their own children and not based on an enhanced general facial expertise.
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