May 2008
Volume 8, Issue 6
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   May 2008
The neural and behavioral plasticity of other-race face recognition
Author Affiliations
  • James Tanaka
    Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, BCCanada
  • Lara Pierce
    Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, BCCanada
Journal of Vision May 2008, Vol.8, 534. doi:
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      James Tanaka, Lara Pierce; The neural and behavioral plasticity of other-race face recognition. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):534. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Although it is well established that people are better at recognizing own- versus other-race faces, the neural mechanisms mediating this advantage are not well understood. In this study, Caucasian participants were trained to differentiate African (or Hispanic) faces at the subordinate individual level and categorize Hispanic (or African) faces at the basic level of race. Training occurred over five consecutive days of learning. Before and after training, participants were administered an old/new recognition test of novel African and Hispanic faces while recording electrophysiological activity. Previous event-related potential research has suggested that two posterior brain components, the N170 and N250, are linked to different aspects of face processing. Whereas the N170 provides an index of category exposure, the N250 is a marker of subordinate level identification. Consistent with this view, after training both African and Hispanic faces elicited a shorter N170 latency regardless of whether they were learned at the subordinate or at the basic level. However, faces trained at the subordinate level of the individual elicited a greater N250 and showed greater improvements in post-training recognition relative to faces trained at the basic level. These results suggest that subordinate level training enhances memory for other-race faces and improved recognition is indicated by the presence of the N250 component.

Tanaka, J. Pierce, L. (2008). The neural and behavioral plasticity of other-race face recognition [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 8(6):534, 534a,, doi:10.1167/8.6.534. [CrossRef]
 the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (NSF Grant #SBE-0542013), James S. McDonnell Foundation (Perceptual Expertise Network) and the National Science and Engineering Research Councils of Canada.

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