|LITERACY ACQUISITION REDUCES THE INFLUENCE OF AUTOMATIC HOLISTIC PROCESSING OF FACES AND HOUSES
Ventura, P., Fernandes, T., Cohen, L., Morais, J., Kolinsky, R., & Dehaene, S. (2013). Literacy acquisition reduces the influence of automatic holistic processing of faces and houses. NeuroScience Letters, 554, 105-109. Writing was invented too recently to have influenced the human genome. Consequently, reading acqui- sition must rely on partial recycling of pre-existing brain systems. Prior fMRI evidence showed that in literates a left-hemispheric visual region increases its activation to written strings relative to illit- erates and reduces its response to faces. Increasing literacy also leads to a stronger right-hemispheric lateralization for faces. Here, we evaluated whether this reorganization of the brain’s face system has behavioral consequences for the processing of non-linguistic visual stimuli. Three groups of adult illiter- ates, ex-illiterates and literates were tested with the sequential composite face paradigm that evaluates the automaticity with which faces are processed as wholes. Illiterates were consistently more holistic than participants with reading experience in dealing with faces. A second experiment replicated this effect with both faces and houses. Brain reorganization induced by literacy seems to reduce the influence of automatic holistic processing of faces and houses by enabling the use of a more analytic and flexible processing strategy, at least when holistic processing is detrimental to the task.