August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
What gives a face its ethnicity?
Author Affiliations
  • Isabelle Bülthoff
    Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 1282. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Isabelle Bülthoff; What gives a face its ethnicity?. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1282. doi:

      Download citation file:

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

  • Supplements

We can quickly and easily judge faces in terms of their ethnicity. What is the basis for our decision? Other studies have used either eye tracking (e.g., Armann & Bülthoff 2009) or the Bubbles method (e.g., Gosselin & Schyns 2001) in categorization tasks to investigate which facial features are used for sex or identity classification. The first method investigates which parts are preferentially looked at while the latter method shows which facial regions, when shown in isolation during the task, leads to correct classification. Here we measured the influence of facial features on ethnicity classification when they are embedded in the face of the other ethnicity. Asian and Caucasian faces of our 3D face database ( had been paired according to sex, age and appearance. We used 18 pairs of those Asian-Caucasian faces to create a variety of mixed-race faces. Mixed-race faces were obtained by exchanging one of the following facial features between both faces of a pair: mouth, nose, facial contour, shape, texture (skin) and eyes. We showed original and modified faces one by one in a simple ethnicity classification task. All faces were turned 20 degrees to the side for a more informative view of nose shape, face shape and facial contour while eyes and mouth and general face textures were still fully visible. Because of skin color differences between exchanged parts and original faces, all 3D faces were rendered as grey-level images. The results of 24 Caucasian participants show that the eyes and the texture of a face are major determinants for ethnicity classification, more than face shape and face contour, while mouth and nose had weak influence. Response times showed that participants were faster at classifying less ambiguous faces.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.