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M. Umar Toseeb, David R. T. Keeble, Eleanor J. Bryant; The Effect of Changing External Features on the Recognition of Headscarf-Wearing Faces. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):672. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.672.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The Muslim headscarf (hijab) conceals the hair and other external facial features, and so may have implications for the ease with which faces are remembered. To investigate this, 24 South Asian females were photographed wearing the headscarf (HS), with their own hair (OH) visible, and with all external features cropped (CR). Participants viewed a number of photographs during the learning phase and then subsequently viewed the same faces intermixed with distracter faces. Participants were required to decide whether each face had been seen in the learning phase. Crucially, faces were either in the same state in the two phases, or switched between two different states. Some participants also completed a social contact questionnaire which was used to measure the quality and quantity of contact with South Asian people, White people and, with females wearing a Muslim headscarf. Surprisingly, when the hair state was the same at learning and test, performance was almost the same (approximately 83%) for OH, HS, and CR conditions. However, when the hair status of the pictures was switched between learning and test phases, performance dropped dramatically to approximately 64%. In addition to this, contact with South Asian people was positively correlated with performance for the OH stimuli. Furthermore, for the CR stimuli there was a positive correlation between contact with headscarf wearing females and performance on the recognition task. These results imply that there is sufficient information in the internal features of faces for optimal performance in these experimental conditions and that social contact may mediate the size of any bias. The drop in performance when hair status changes suggests that the hijab or hair may sometimes act as a perceptual mask to the face stimulus, in much the same way that a wig can act as a disguise in certain circumstances.
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