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Psychol Bull. 2012 Jan;138(1):146-74. doi: 10.1037/a0025750. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

The own-age bias in face recognition: a meta-analytic and theoretical review.

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Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, FortCollins, CO 80523-1876, USA.


A large number of studies have examined the finding that recognition memory for faces of one's own age group is often superior to memory for faces of another age group. We examined this own-age bias (OAB) in the meta-analyses reported. These data showed that hits were reliably greater for same-age relative to other-age faces (g = 0.23) and that false alarms were reliably less likely for same-age compared with other-age faces (g = -0.23). Further meta-analyses of measures of signal detection demonstrated that, although no difference in response criterion was evident (g = -0.01), discriminability was reliably better for same-age compared with other-age faces (g = 0.37). As well, children, younger adults, and older adults exhibited superior discriminability for same-age compared with other-age age faces. Thus, the OAB appears to be a robust effect that influences the accuracy of face recognition. Theoretical accounts of the OAB have generally suggested that it reflects more extensive, recent experiences with one's own age group relative to other-age groups. Additional analyses were supportive of this account as the OAB was present even for groups (e.g., older adults) that had prior experiences as members of another age group. However, the most comprehensive account of the OAB will also likely invoke mechanisms suggested by social-cognitive theories.

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