Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When they do not all look alike: Using identity to reduce own-race bias

Date:
September 24, 2012
Source:
New York University
Summary:
New research finds that that we can improve our memory of members of another race by identifying ourselves as part of the same group. Such identification could improve everything from race relations to eyewitness identification.

People often remark that people of a different race "all look alike." However, when we have trouble recognizing people from another race, it may actually have little to do with the other person's race. Instead, new research finds that that we can improve our memory of members of another race by identifying ourselves as part of the same group. Such identification could improve everything from race relations to eyewitness identification.

Related Articles


"One of the most robust phenomena in social perception is the finding that people are better at remembering people from their own race. This effect -- called the own-race bias -- is often interpreted as the consequence of perceptual expertise, whereby people spend more time with members of their own race and therefore have difficulty differentiating members of other races," says Jay Van Bavel of New York University, co-author of the new study published online last month in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"Instead, we show that people are better at differentiating members of their own race because they simply pay more attention to who is in their own group, regardless of their race."

In three experiments, Van Bavel and colleague William Cunningham of the University of Toronto tested the own-race bias by assigning people to an arbitrary group -- for example the "Moons" or the "Suns" -- that included both white and black members. Participants watched a series of faces and had a few minutes to learn all the members of both their own group as well as another group. Researchers then asked participants to complete a short filler task to take their minds off the faces and then later administered a brief memory test to see if they could remember the people at the beginning of the study.

In the third experiment, there was a small twist: The researchers assigned people within each group the role of either a "soldier" or a "spy," telling them their goal was to serve the needs of the group. For spies, the specific goal was to "remain loyal to the Moons (or Suns) but your ultimate goal will be to serve the needs of your group by infiltrating the Suns (or Moons)."

In all three experiments, race had no effect on how well participants remembered members of their group versus the other group. In general, people remembered members of their own group more than the other group. This was especially true of people who identified strongly with their group. "The people in our studies seem to care more about their group membership than race -- even when the groups are completely trivial," Van Bavel says.

The "spies" were the exception to this pattern. People assigned to the role of spy had excellent memory for both in-group and out-group members. "In other words, spies paid more attention to out-group members because it was part of their group identity," Van Bavel says. "If you can give people the right motivation, they will pay attention to the out-group."

The research shows that there are ways for us to improve our memory of people in other groups. "If people find that racial biases are interfering with their interactions with others, they might considering trying to finding a common group membership that they share," Van Bavel says. "For example, they might see themselves as 'Americans.'"

The research also has implications for legal contexts, such as police lineups ad eyewitness testimony, he says. Recent research has found that approximately 36% of wrongful convictions are due to erroneous cross-race eyewitness identification in which Caucasian witnesses misidentify minority defendants.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. J. Van Bavel, W. A. Cunningham. A Social Identity Approach to Person Memory: Group Membership, Collective Identification, and Social Role Shape Attention and Memory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/0146167212455829

Cite This Page:

New York University. "When they do not all look alike: Using identity to reduce own-race bias." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924142142.htm>.
New York University. (2012, September 24). When they do not all look alike: Using identity to reduce own-race bias. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924142142.htm
New York University. "When they do not all look alike: Using identity to reduce own-race bias." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924142142.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

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