UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Impact of bi-ethnic exposure on face memory and perception Mousavi, Seyed Morteza


Tuning changes of perception from a generalist to a specialist system is termed perceptual narrowing (Werker & Tees, 1984). Observers raised in ethnically homogenous environments show difficulties in recognizing other-race faces (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). Termed the other-race effect (ORE), this phenomenon is in part attributed to lack of visual experience with other-race faces (Chiroro & Valentine, 1995). The ORE is a form of perceptual narrowing that allows specialization for commonly encountered faces. To examine the origin of perceptual narrowing in face recognition we postulate three competing hypotheses. Based on the Resource Bottleneck hypothesis, limited neural and visual resources must be focused to achieve refined processing of own-race faces. Alternatively, the Use/Disuse hypothesis suggests that the ORE is merely due to lack of exposure necessary to reach expertise for unfamiliar face classes. Lastly, the Facilitation hypothesis, suggests that exposure to a diverse set of faces can lead to richer face representations, and thus, advantages in face recognition. To evaluate these hypotheses, we compared face abilities of ‘Bi-ethnics’--individuals with sustained high exposure to both East Asian and Caucasian faces, to ‘Mono-ethnics’—Caucasian and East Asian individuals. Face memory was examined using an old/new task for East Asian and Caucasian faces, as well as upright and inverted Cambridge Memory Tests for East Asian (McKone et al., 2012) and Caucasian (Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006) faces, in comparison to cars (Dennett et al., 2011) as a control stimulus. Lastly, an identity discrimination test of East Asian and Caucasian celebrities was used to examine face perception. Mono-ethnics showed ORE in memory tasks, whereas Bi-ethnics showed near-native level performance for both face categories. Mono-ethnics showed a larger face inversion effect for own-race faces and Bi-ethnics showed similar face inversion patterns for own-race in Mono-ethnics for both face categories. All groups performed similarly in the Caucasian face perception task. However, in the East Asian face task, Caucasians showed ORE, with Bi-ethnics showing a small advantage over East Asians. Results across all tasks rule out the Resource Bottleneck hypothesis, and are consistent with the Use/Disuse hypothesis. Perception results suggest the possibility of Facilitation for Bi-ethnic exposure.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International