Own- versus other-race face perception : social contact and the human brain
The experiments in this thesis used behavioural measures and event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the influence of race on face processing in the brain. Previous behavioural research has highlighted an own-race effect in face processing, whereby individuals are more accurate at recognizing own-race compared to other-race faces. The current Thesis examined the own-race effect at perceptual and neural levels. Social influences on the own-race effect were also investigated, such as other-race experience, anxiety and implicit social bias, as these may account for differential own- versus other-race face processing. The main aim of the experiments contained in this thesis was to delve deeper into the examination of own and other-race face perception through a series of original experiments. Participants performed a variety of perceptual discrimination and identification tasks, and completed measures of explicit other-race experience and implicit racial bias to record their perceptions of other-race individuals. Chapters 2-4 saw the development of a new paradigm that tested the own-race effect in perception, in contrast to traditional recognition memory investigations. In Chapter 2 the own-race effect was investigated developmentally and found across three age-groups, and was larger in the two older age-groups. Chapters 3 and 4 found that the own-race effect differed across racial groups, and that social variables such as other-race experience influenced the strength of the own-race effect. In the latter experimental chapters, ERPs revealed that the behavioural own-race effect was evident at a neural level. Chapter 7 demonstrated that face-related stages of processing in the brain were sensitive to race of face. In Chapters 8 and 9, the sensitivity of face processing to own and other-race emotional expression processing was also examined. The additional social factor of emotional expression was explored in order to further the investigation of socially relevant information processing from the face. Findings from the last two experimental chapters demonstrated differential emotional face processing for own- versus other-race faces. Confirming the findings of the behavioural experiments, own- versus other-race emotion processing varied across racial groups and was subject to social influences such as other-race experience, intergroup anxiety and implicit racial bias. Overall, behavioural and neural investigations of the own-race effect demonstrated the influence of social variables such as other-race experience, intergroup anxiety and implicit racial bias on the way in which individuals processed own- versus other-race faces in the human brain.