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Andrew Rosenblatt, Rogelio J. Mercado, Jeremy Wilmer, Joseph DeGutis; Individual differences in holistic processing predict the own-race advantage in recognition memory. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):864. doi: 10.1167/13.9.864.
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Individuals are consistently better at recognizing own-race faces compared to other-race faces (other-race effect, ORE). One popular hypothesis is that this recognition memory ORE is caused by differential own- and other-race holistic processing, the simultaneous integration of part and configural face information into a coherent whole. Holistic processing may create a more rich, detailed memory representation of own-race faces compared to other-race faces. Despite several studies showing that own-race faces are processed more holistically than other-race faces, studies have yet to firmly link the holistic processing ORE (HP-ORE) with the recognition memory ORE (RM-ORE). With the participation of 53 Caucasian individuals (mean age of 24.91 years), the current study demonstrates such a linkage by using validated measures of holistic face processing (Caucasian and Asian part-whole tasks) and face recognition (Caucasian and Asian Cambridge Face Memory Tests) and employing a regression-based approach that enables fine-grained parsing of individual differences in these OREs. This analytic approach allows us to separately examine (a) own-race-specific performance, statistically equating other-race performance across individuals, and (b) other-race-specific performance, statistically equating own-race-specific performance across individuals. Using this approach, we found an association between HP-ORE and RM-ORE that was largely specific to own-race performance, thereby linking own-race-specific holistic processing mechanisms to the RM-ORE. We also demonstrated that own-race performance across all of our tasks correlated highly with other-race performance, suggesting that the mechanisms used for own- and other-race face processing are mostly shared. We also replicate previous findings that own-race faces are processed more holistically than other-race faces, and show that this is specific to the eye region. Together, these results suggest that while own- and other-race faces recruit largely similar mechanisms, own-race faces more thoroughly engage holistic processing, and moreover, those individuals who preferentially engage holistic processing mechanisms for own-race faces show an own-race-face-specific recognition advantage.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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