Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why We Are Unable To Distinguish Faces Of Other Races (and Sometimes Our Own)

Date:
August 16, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
There's a troubling psychological phenomenon that just about everyone has experienced but few will admit to; having difficulty distinguishing between people of different racial groups. New research suggests this effect arises from our tendency to categorize people into in-groups and out-groups based on social categories like social class, hobbies, and of course, race.

There's a troubling psychological phenomenon that just about everyone has experienced but few will admit to; having difficulty distinguishing between people of different racial groups.

This isn't merely a nod to the denigrating expression "they all look the same." Indeed, the "cross-race effect" is one of the most well replicated findings in psychological research and can lead to embarrassment, social castigation, or the disturbingly common occurrence of eye-witness misidentifications.

Although a potentially charged experience, the causes of the cross-race effect are unclear. In one camp, psychologists argue that in a society where de facto segregation is the norm, people often don't have much practice with individuals of other racial groups and are thus less capable of recognizing distinguishing features.

But researchers from Miami University have a different idea of why the cross-race effect occurs. They argue this effect arises from our tendency to categorize people into in-groups and out-groups based on social categories like social class, hobbies, and of course, race.

In a series of experiments, Miami University undergraduates were led to believe that they would view the faces of fellow Miami students (the in-group) and students from Marshall University (a perennial football rival, making them the ultimate out-group) on a computer screen.

In reality, none of the faces, all of whom were white, were students at either university. By merely labeling them, however, the participants better recognized faces that they believed were fellow Miami students.

The study, conducted by psychologist Kurt Hugenberg and graduate students Michael Bernstein and Steven Young, will be published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Hugenberg and his colleagues believe the study suggests that recognition deficits can occur without the need for race or different physical characteristics, arguing instead that there is more than just unfamiliarity with other races at play in the cross-race effect.

According to the researchers, "people frequently split the world up into us and them, in other words into social groups, be they racial, national, occupational, or even along the lines of university affiliation. Our work suggests that the cross-race effect is due, at least in part, to this ubiquitous tendency to see the world in terms of these in-groups and out-groups."

Article "The Cross-Category Effect: Mere Social Categorization Is Sufficient to Elicit an Own-Group Bias in Face Recognition"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Why We Are Unable To Distinguish Faces Of Other Races (and Sometimes Our Own)." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070814154259.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, August 16). Why We Are Unable To Distinguish Faces Of Other Races (and Sometimes Our Own). ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070814154259.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Why We Are Unable To Distinguish Faces Of Other Races (and Sometimes Our Own)." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070814154259.htm (accessed August 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) A new study shows stress at work can be hard on your health, but people who are unemployed might be at even greater risk of health problems. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Google says it is following Europe's new "Right To Be Forgotten Law," which eliminates user information upon request, but only to a certain degree. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Sometimes the signs of a stroke are far from easy to recognize. Learn from one young father’s story on the signs of a stroke. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Could eating carbohydrates be harmful to our brain health? Find out what one neurologist says about changing our diets. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins