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Vision Res. 2013 Aug 30;89:39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Jul 15.

Visual search for faces by race: a cross-race study.

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Department of Medical Imaging, Jinan Military General Hospital, Jinan, China.


Using a single averaged face of each race previous study indicated that the detection of one other-race face among own-race faces background was faster than vice versa (Levin, 1996, 2000). However, employing a variable mapping of face pictures one recent report found preferential detection of own-race faces vs. other-race faces (Lipp et al., 2009). Using the well-controlled design and a heterogeneous set of real face images, in the present study we explored the visual search for own and other race faces in Chinese and Caucasian participants. Across both groups, the search for a face of one race among other-race faces was serial and self-terminating. In Chinese participants, the search consistently faster for other-race than own-race faces, irrespective of upright or upside-down condition; however, this search asymmetry was not evident in Caucasian participants. These characteristics suggested that the race of a face is not a visual basic feature, and in Chinese participants the faster search for other-race than own-race faces also reflects perceptual factors. The possible mechanism underlying other-race search effects was discussed.


Cross-culture; Other-race faces; Serial search; Visual search

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