A cultural setting where the other-race effect on face recognition has no social-motivational component and derives entirely from lifetime perceptual experience

L. Wan, Kate Crookes, K.J. Reynolds, J.L. Irons, E. Mckone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Competing approaches to the other-race effect (ORE) see its primary cause as either a lack of motivation to individuate social outgroup members, or a lack of perceptual experience with other-race faces. Here, we argue that the evidence supporting the social-motivational approach derives from a particular cultural setting: a high socio-economic status group (typically US Whites) looking at the faces of a lower status group (US Blacks) with whom observers typically have at least moderate perceptual experience. In contrast, we test motivation-to-individuate instructions across five studies covering an extremely wide range of perceptual experience, in a cultural setting of more equal socio-economic status, namely Asian and Caucasian participants ( N=. 480) tested on Asian and Caucasian faces. We find no social-motivational component at all to the ORE, specifically: no reduction in the ORE with motivation instructions, including for novel images of the faces, and at all experience levels; no increase in correlation between own- and other-race face recognition, implying no increase in shared processes; and greater (not the predicted less) effort applied to distinguishing other-race faces than own-race faces under normal ("no instructions") conditions. Instead, the ORE was predicted by level of contact with the other-race. Our results reject both pure social-motivational theories and also the recent Categorization-Individuation model of Hugenberg, Young, Bernstein, and Sacco (2010). We propose a new dual-route approach to the ORE, in which there are two causes of the ORE-lack of motivation, and lack of experience-that contribute differently across varying world locations and cultural settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-115
Number of pages25
Early online date7 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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