Recognition of Faces: Own-Race Bias, Incentive, and Time Delay1


  • 1

    This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant BNS 77- 27476 to the second author. We are indebted to the Psychology faculty at Florida A & M University for their help in recruiting subjects and to George Weaver, Melissa WolfsKeil, Gina Oliva, Kent Miller, Linda Giesbrecht-Bettoli and, especially, Dallas Williams and Darryl Bruce, for their valuable assistance at various stages of the research.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. John C. Brigham, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306.


The ability of whites and blacks to correctly identify previously-seen faces of each race was assessed in a factorial design varying the length of time between inspection and recognition phases (immediate, 2 days, or 7 days) and incentive (possibility of monetary reward for accurate recognition). Recognition of faces of males was poorer after the longer time delays, but no comparable delay over time occurred for pictures of females. Subjects' criteria for responding became more lax after the longer time delays. Incentive had no significant direct impact on recognition accuracy or on subjects' criterion levels. A significant degree of own-race bias in recognition accuracy occurred, but only among whtte subjects. An own-race bias in response criteria occurred with subjects of both races. Implications of these findings are discussed.