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To one race, the tired adage implies, people in other races are tough to differentiate from each other. Some call it the "other-race effect."
It's something more than a wince-worthy punchline. New UC Riverside research bears it out, finding we are hard-wired to process -- or not process -- facial differences based on race. And that process occurs in the earliest filters of our thought process.
Research - Week - Proceedings - National - Academy
The research, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, or PNAS, was led by UC Riverside psychologist Brent Hughes. The overriding question posited in the paper: When we observe members of another racial group, are their actual physical distinctions blurred in our mind's eye?
The study participants were 17 white people studying white and black faces on a monitor while lying inside a functional MRI scanner, which identifies changes in brain activity. Some experiments were also conducted outside of the MRI.
Hughes - Team - Participants - Cortex - Differences
Hughes and his team looked at the white participants' high-level visual cortex to see whether it was more tuned in to differences in white faces than black ones. The visual cortex is the first stop for processing impulses from the eyes; the high-level visual cortex specializing in processing faces.
Their findings affirmed previous studies, determining that participants showed a greater tendency to individuate -- recognize differences in -- own-race faces, and less for other races. But Hughes' study went further, demonstrating how deep this tendency runs: as far as our earliest sensory processes.
Results - Biases - Emerge
"Our results suggest that biases for other-race faces emerge at some of the...
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