September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
The neural correlates of categorization and individuation of own-race and other-race faces
Author Affiliations
  • Grit Herzmann
    Department of Psychology, The College of Wooster
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 678. doi:
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      Grit Herzmann; The neural correlates of categorization and individuation of own-race and other-race faces. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):678. doi:

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

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Categorization and individuation of own-race and other-race faces consistently leads to opposite effects. Categorization is faster for other-race faces, individation is faster for own-race faces. Explanations for these findings suggest that own-race faces are processed on the level of the individuum in both tasks which hampers categorization but facilitates individuation. They also suggest a lack of holistic processing for other-race faces which is proposed to be due to either a lack of motivation according to socio-cognitive theories or a lack of perceptual learning according to perceptual expertise theories. This study recorded event-related potentials while Caucasian participants matched two sequentially presented faces based on race (categorization) or identity (individuation). Face stimuli consisted of Caucasian faces, Chinese faces, and African-American faces. Confirming previous findings, other-race faces were categorized faster but individuated slower than own-race faces. The N250, taken to reflect individuation or subordinate level processing, yielded three important findings. First, it was largest for other-race faces in both tasks showing that individuation of other-race faces requires more neural resources and speaks against a motivational cause for the lack of holistic processing and thus socio-cognitive theories. Second, African-American faces elicited larger N250 amplitudes than Chinese faces in the categorization task but not in the individuation task suggesting a special role of skin color during categorization but not individuation. Finally, sequential (i.e., repeated) presentation of the faces influenced the N250. For own-race faces, N250 repetition effects were the same in both tasks. For other-race faces, N250 repetition effects were larger in the individuation than the categorization task. These results provide evidence that own-race faces are processed in the same way in both tasks. They also provide further evidence against socio-cognitive theories because a larger repetition effect in the individuation task for other-race faces is in contrast to the proposed motivational lack for holistic processing.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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