Race Categorization Modulates Holistic Face Encoding


Unité Cognition et Développement, Université Catholique de Louvain, 10 Place du Cardinal Mercier, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. E-mail: caroline.michel@psp.ucl.ac.be


Recent studies have shown that same-race (SR) faces are processed more holistically than other-race (OR) faces, a difference that may underlie the greater difficulty at recognizing OR than SR faces (the “other-race effect”). This article provides original evidence suggesting that the holistic processing of faces may be sensitive to the observers' racial categorization of the face. In Experiment 1, Caucasian participants performed a face-composite task with Caucasian faces, Asian faces, and racially ambiguous morphed face stimuli. Identical morphed face stimuli were processed more holistically when categorized as SR than as OR faces. Experiment 2 further suggests that this finding was not underlain by strategic or training effects. Overall, these results support the view that one's categorization of a face as belonging to the same or another race plays a critical role in the holistic processing of this face.