Language and face processing develop in similar ways during the first year of life. Early in the first year of life, infants demonstrate broad abilities for discriminating among faces and speech. These discrimination abilities then become tuned to frequently experienced groups of people or languages. This process of perceptual development occurs between approximately 6 and 12 months of age and is largely shaped by experience. However, the mechanisms underlying perceptual development during this time, and whether they are shared across domains, remain largely unknown. Here, we highlight research findings across domains and propose a top-down/bottom-up processing approach as a guide for future research. It is hypothesized that perceptual narrowing and tuning in development is the result of a shift from primarily bottom-up processing to a combination of bottom-up and top-down influences. In addition, we propose word learning as an important top-down factor that shapes tuning in both the speech and face domains, leading to similar observed developmental trajectories across modalities. Importantly, we suggest that perceptual narrowing/tuning is the result of multiple interacting factors and not explained by the development of a single mechanism.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited