Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Developmental changes in the processing of hierarchical shapes continue into adolescence

The present study was designed to trace the normal development of local and global processing of hierarchical visual forms. We presented pairs of hierarchical shapes to children and adults and asked them to indicate whether the two shapes were the same or different at either the global or the local level. In Experiments 1 (6-year-olds, 10-year-olds, adults) and 2 (10-year-olds, 14-year-olds, adults), we presented stimuli centrally. All age groups responded faster on global trials than local trials (global precedence effect), but the bias was stronger in children and diminished to the adult level between 10 and 14 years of age. In Experiment 3 (10-year-olds, 14-year-olds, adults), we presented stimuli in the left or right visual field so that they were transmitted first to the contralateral hemisphere. All age groups responded faster on local trials when stimuli were presented in the right visual field (left hemisphere); reaction times on global trials were independent of visual field. The results of Experiment 3 suggest that by 10 years of age the hemispheres have adult-like specialization for the processing of hierarchical shapes, at least when attention is directed to the global versus local level. Nevertheless, their greater bias in Experiments 1 and 2 suggests that 10-year-olds are less able than adults to modulate attention to the output from local versus global channels-perhaps because they are less able to ignore distractors and perhaps because the cerebral hemispheres are less able to engage in parallel processing.



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