Atypical perceptual processing of faces in developmental dyslexia

Yafit Gabay, Eva Dundas, David Plaut, Marlene Behrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Developmental Dyslexia (DD) is often attributed to phonological processing deficits. Recent evidence, however, indicates the need for a more general explanatory framework to account for DD's range of deficits. The current study examined the specificity versus domain generality of DD by comparing the recognition and discrimination of three visual categories (faces and words with cars as control stimuli) in typical and dyslexic readers. Relative to controls, not only did dyslexic individuals perform more poorly on word recognition, but they also matched faces more slowly, especially when the faces differed in viewpoint, and discriminated between similar faces (but not cars) more poorly. Additionally, dyslexics showed reduced hemispheric lateralization for words and faces. These results reveal that DD affects both word and face, but not car, processing, implicating a partial domain general basis of DD. We offer a theoretical proposal to account for the multifaceted findings and suggestions for further, longitudinal studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation to MB under Grant (number BCS-1354350) and by the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center under grant (number SBE0542013) (PI: G. Cottrell). We thank Dr Michael Tarr for the use of images from his database, Akshat Gupta for help in scheduling the participants and data analysis, and Dr Lori Holt for her support of this project. The face database in Experiment 2 was provided by the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany. The morphed face images in this study were created from facial images provided by Sharon Gilaie-Dotan, and are fully described in the paper: Gilaie-Dotan S., Malach R. Sub-exemplar shape tuning in human face-related areas. Cereb. Cortex. 2007; 17:325–338.

FundersFunder number
Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen
Temporal Dynamics of Learning CenterSBE0542013
National Science FoundationBCS-1354350


    • Developmental dyslexia
    • Face recognition
    • Hemispheric specialization
    • Lateralization of function
    • Perceptual expertise
    • Word recognition


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