Face recognition when children learn to read

Christina Desireé Kühn, Inge L. Wilms, Christian Gerlach, Randi Starrfelt

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPosterResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Face and word recognition are generally assumed to rely on highly specialized and relatively independent areas in the adult brain lateralized to the right and the left hemisphere, respectively. Recently it has been proposed that the development of these cognitive processes might not be as independent as previously assumed, and that learning to read may drive the lateralization of the face processing system to the right hemisphere. One behavioral question remaining is whether learning to read affects face recognition ability. We hypothesize that learning to read could reduce face recognition ability during the initial learning phase while the brain reorganizes to meet the challenges of learning a new skill and obtaining a greater efficiency in the long run.
Method: 82 children, 5 to 6 years old, from two Danish schools were included in this study. They were tested twice approximately 8 months apart, in the beginning and in the end of first grade (Danish grade 0). At both sessions they were given a new test for immediate face recognition and tasks for visual letter and word recognition.
Results: The children improved their letter and word recognition during their first year of school as expected, but overall their face recognition ability also improved during this period. Reliability of the face test is discussed.
Conclusions: We found no overall negative behavioral effect of reading acquisition on face recognition ability during first grade. This may be because a negative effect occurs earlier or later during reading acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date22. Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 22. Aug 2018
Event13th Nordic Meeting in Neuropsychology - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 22. Aug 201824. Aug 2018


Conference13th Nordic Meeting in Neuropsychology
Internet address


  • Face recognition
  • Reading
  • Children
  • Development


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