Late development of metric part-relational processing in object recognition

Martin Jüttner, Dean Petters, Elley Wakui and Jules Davidoff

Four experiments with unfamiliar objects examined the remarkably late consolidation of part-relational relative to part-based object recognition (Jüttner, Wakui, Petters, Kaur, & Davidoff, 2013). Our results indicate a particularly protracted developmental trajectory for the processing of metric part relations. School children aged 7–14 and adults were tested in 3-AFC tasks to judge the correct appearance of upright and inverted newly learned multi-part objects that had been manipulated in terms of individual parts or part relations. Experiment 1 showed that even the youngest tested children were close to adult levels of performance for recognizing categorical changes of individual parts and relative part position. By contrast, Experiment 2 demonstrated that performance for detecting metric changes of relative part position was distinctly reduced in young children compared to recognizing metric changes of individual parts, and did not approach the latter until 11–12 years. A similar developmental dissociation was observed in Experiment 3, which contrasted the detection of metric relative size changes and metric part changes. Experiment 4 showed that manipulations of metric size that were perceived as part (rather than part-relational) changes eliminated this dissociation. Implications for theories of object recognition and similarities to the development of face perception are discussed.

 Keywords: development, object recognition, face recognition, configural, relational, part, geon, metric, categorical

Jüttner, M., Petters, D., Wakui, E. & Davidoff, J. (2014). Late development of metric part-relational processing in object recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 40, 1718-1734.