Reducing the other-race effect requires childhood visual experience, not increased social motivation
43.451, Monday, May 13, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Orchid Ballroom
Lulu Wan1,2, Elinor McKone1,2, Jessica L. Irons1, Kate Crookes3; 1Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Australia, 2ARC Centre for Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, The Australian National University, Australia, 3School of Psychology and ARC Centre for Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, University of Western Australia, Australia
AIMS. The other-race effect (ORE) refers to poor ability to tell apart members of other races. Here, we contrast two theoretical approaches to explaining the ORE. The first is a lack of visual experience, leading to perceptual mechanisms for individuating faces (e.g., face-space dimensions) being tuned to one race and thus less useful for discriminating faces of other races. The second is the Hugenberg et al (2007) hypothesis that the ORE is due to lack of motivation and can be overcome by instructions to pay greater attention to individuating information in the other-race faces. METHOD. Unlike Hugenberg, we tested the full crossover design (Asian and Caucasian observers, on Asian and Caucasian faces), tested face recognition rather than photograph recognition by using new images of the person (Cambridge Face Memory Test format), and asked observers to report their effort applied to individuating other-race faces. Subjects also reported multiple contact variables (e.g., percentage of Asians in their classes) separated into different life stages (primary school, secondary school, and now). RESULTS. Findings showed (a) in our populations, the Hugenberg motivation-to-individuate instructions produced no reduction in the ORE (but improved memory overall); (b) participants were highly motivated to individuate other-race faces even without the Hugenberg instructions, yet showed a strong ORE; (c) the size of individuals' ORE correlated with their contact with different races in childhood; (d) there was no correlation between ORE and either social attitudes (willingness to marry other-race person) or recent contact as adults. CONCLUSIONS. Results support the lack-of-visual-experience theory not the lack-of-motivation theory. Increasing attention to other-race faces is not sufficient to reduce the ORE. Instead, visual experience is required. Moreover, this experience with other-race faces must be obtained in childhood, suggesting tuning of face mechanisms to particular subtypes of faces has a period of greater plasticity during development.