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The contribution of shape and surface information in the other-race face effect

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Quoc Vuong


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Faces from another race are generally more difficult to recognize than faces from one's own race. However, faces provide multiple cues for recognition and it remains unknown what are the relative contribution of these cues to this other-race effect. In the current study, we used three-dimensional laser-scanned head models which allowed us to independently manipulate two prominent cues for face recognition: the facial shape morphology and the facial surface properties (texture and colour). In Experiment 1, Asian and Caucasian participants implicitly learned a set of Asian and Caucasian faces that had both shape and surface cues to facial identity. Their recognition of these encoded faces was then tested in an old/new recognition task. For these face stimuli, we found a robust other-race effect: Both groups were more accurate at recognizing own-race than other-race faces. Having established the other-race effect, in Experiment 2 we provided only shape cues for recognition and in Experiment 3 we provided only surface cues for recognition. Caucasian participants continued to show the other-race effect when only shape information was available, whereas Asian participants showed no effect. When only surface information was available, there was a weak pattern for the other-race effect in Asians. Performance was poor in this latter experiment, so this pattern needs to be interpreted with caution. Overall, these findings suggest that Asian and Caucasian participants rely differently on shape and surface cues to recognize own-race faces, and that they continue to use the same cues for other-race faces, which may be suboptimal for these faces.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Michel C, Rossion B, Bulthoff I, Hayward WG, Vuong QC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Visual Cognition

Year: 2013

Volume: 21

Issue: 9-10

Pages: 1202-1223

Online publication date: 21/08/2013

Acceptance date: 02/07/2013

ISSN (print): 1350-6285

ISSN (electronic): 1464-0716

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13506285.2013.823141


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