The influence of feature-based information in the age processing of unfamiliar faces
The influence of the internal features (eyes, nose, and mouth) in the age processing of unfamiliar faces was examined. Younger and older versions of the faces of six individuals (covering three different age ranges, from infancy to maturity) were used as donor stimuli. For each individual in turn, the effects on age estimates of placing older features in the younger face version (or vice versa) were investigated. Age estimates were heavily influenced by the age of the internal facial features. Experiment 2 replicated these effects with a larger number of faces within a narrower age range (after growth is complete and before major skin changes have occurred). Taken together, these two experiments show that the internal facial features may be influential in conveying age information to the perceiver. However, the mechanisms by which features exert their influence remain difficult to determine: although age estimates might be based on local information from the features themselves, an alternative possibility is that featural changes indirectly influence age estimates by altering the global three-dimensional shape of the head.