Face-blind for other-race faces: Individual differences in other-race recognition impairments

Lulu Wan, Kate Crookes, Amy Dawel, Madeleine Pidcock, Ashleigh Hall, Elinor McKone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We report the existence of a previously undescribed group of people, namely individuals who are so poor at recognition of other-race faces that they meet criteria for clinical-level impairment (i.e., they are "face-blind" for other-race faces). Testing 550 participants, and using the well-validated Cambridge Face Memory Test for diagnosing face blindness, results show the rate of other-race face blindness to be nontrivial, specifically 8.1% of Caucasians and Asians raised in majority own-race countries. Results also show risk factors for other-race face blindness to include: a lack of interracial contact; and being at the lower end of the normal range of general face recognition ability (i.e., even for own-race faces); but not applying less individuating effort to other-race than own-race faces. Findings provide a potential resolution of contradictory evidence concerning the importance of the other-race effect (ORE), by explaining how it is possible for the mean ORE to be modest in size (suggesting a genuine but minor problem), and simultaneously for individuals to suffer major functional consequences in the real world (e.g., eyewitness misidentification of other-race offenders leading to wrongful imprisonment). Findings imply that, in legal settings, evaluating an eyewitness's chance of having made an other-race misidentification requires information about the underlying face recognition abilities of the individual witness. Additionally, analogy with prosopagnosia (inability to recognize even own-race faces) suggests everyday social interactions with other-race people, such as those between colleagues in the workplace, will be seriously impacted by the ORE in some people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-122
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume146
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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