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Caroline Michel, Roberto Caldara, Jaehyun Han, Chan-Sup Chung, Bruno Rossion; Is holistic perception of faces specific to our own-race ?. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):539. doi: 10.1167/5.8.539.
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Humans are experts at recognizing faces across a wide range of viewing conditions. A notable exception to this rule is that of recognizing faces of a different race, for which subjects perform poorly (the so-called ‘other-race effect’). In order to understand this phenomenon, it is critical to clarify whether same- and other-race faces processing differs qualitatively. Here, we tested the hypothesis that same-race faces are perceived more holistically than other-race faces. Thirty Caucasian and 30 Asian participants without life experience among other-race faces and presenting a large other-race effect - as measured in an old/new recognition task - took part in the experiment. The differential holistic processing hypothesis was tested by measuring, on same- and other-race faces, the extent to which the recognition of the upper part of a ‘composite face’ was disrupted by the - to be ignored - lower part of the face (the ‘composite effect’, Young, Hellawell, & Hay, 1987). Both Caucasian and Asian participants showed a larger composite effect for same- relative to other-race faces, supporting the view that same-race faces are processed more holistically than other-race faces. In conclusion, same and other-race face processing differs qualitatively, the relationships between features being extracted more efficiently from same-race faces, most likely as a by-product of visual experience.
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