Reading in Developmental Prosopagnosia: Evidence for a Dissociation Between Word and Face Recognition

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Objective: Recent models suggest that face and word recognition may rely on overlapping cognitive processes and neural regions. In support of this notion, face recognition deficits have been demonstrated in developmental dyslexia. Here we test whether the opposite association can also be found, that is, impaired reading in developmental prosopagnosia.
Method: We tested 10 adults with developmental prosopagnosia and 20 matched controls. All participants completed the Cambridge Face Memory Test, the Cambridge Face Perception test and a Face recognition questionnaire used to quantify everyday face recognition experience. Reading was measured in four experimental tasks, testing different levels of letter, word, and text reading: a) single word reading with words of varying length, b) vocal response times in single letter and short word naming, c) recognition of single letters and short words at brief exposure durations (targeting the word superiority effect), and d) text reading.
Results: Participants with developmental prosopagnosia performed strikingly similar to controls across the four reading tasks. Formal analysis revealed a significant dissociation between word and face recognition, as the difference in performance with faces and words was significantly greater for participants with developmental prosopagnosia than for controls.
Conclusions: Adult developmental prosopagnosics read as quickly and fluently as controls, while they are seemingly unable to learn efficient strategies for recognizing faces. We suggest that this is due to the differing demands that face and word recognition put on the perceptual system.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)138-147
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

    Research areas

  • Developmental prosopagnosia, Face recognition, Reading, Word recognition

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