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Evolutionary Specializations for Processing Faces and Objects


Hoffman,  KL
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Hoffman, K. (2007). Evolutionary Specializations for Processing Faces and Objects. In Evolution of Nervous Systems (pp. 437–445). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

Faces are processed in similar ways across cultures, and, in many instances, across primate species. Consistent and discrete brain regions are active for processing faces across human subjects, some of which appear to have homologous structures in the nonhuman primate. These behavioral and neural similarities across species suggest that face processing may be the target of evolutionary specialization. Evidence for an innate specialization can be obtained through testing abilities in infants, who have had minimal opportunity for environmental influences. Another strategy for verifying a specialization for face processing would be to compare homologous structures implicated in face processing in human and nonhuman primates. This approach may be particularly fruitful if the functions and developmental constraints of such structures are better understood in the nonhuman primate. Based on evidence from both approaches, we propose a possible neural substrate for one subset of face-processing abilities that may be innate, and describe evidence that still other face-processing skills may be experience expectant or experience dependent.