The importance of skin color and facial structure in perceiving and remembering others: An electrophysiological study.

Joanne Brebner, Olave Krigolson, Todd Handy, Susanne Quadflieg, David J Turk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The own-race bias (ORB) is a well-documented recognition advantage for own-race (OR) over cross-race (CR) faces, the origin of which remains unclear. In the current study, event- related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while Caucasian participants age-categorized Black and White faces which were digitally altered to display either a race congruent or incongruent facial structure. The results of a subsequent surprise memory test indicated that regardless of facial structure participants recognized White faces better than Black faces. Additional analyses revealed that temporally-early ERP components associated with face-specific perceptual processing (N170) and the individuation of facial exemplars (N250) were selectively sensitive to skin color. In addition, the N200 (a component that has been linked to increased attention and depth of encoding afforded to in-group and OR faces) was modulated by color and structure, and correlated with subsequent memory performance. However, the LPP component associated with the cognitive evaluation of perceptual input was influenced by racial differences in facial structure alone. These findings suggest that racial differences in skin color and facial structure are detected during the encoding of unfamiliar faces, and that the categorization of conspecifics as members of our social in- group on the basis of their skin color may be a determining factor in our ability to subsequently remember them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123
Number of pages133
JournalBrain Research
Volume1388
Early online date5 Mar 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science

Keywords

  • Race, Face processing, Social cognition ERP, Own-race bias, Memory

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