Race-based perceptual asymmetries underlying face processing in infancy

Angela Hayden, Ramesh S. Bhatt, Nicole Zieber, Ashley Kangas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Adults process other-race faces differently than own-race faces. For instance, a single other-race face in an array of own-race faces attracts Caucasians' attention, but a single own-race face among other-race faces does not. This perceptual asymmetry has been explained by the presence of an other-race feature in other-race faces and its absence in own-race faces; this difference is thought to underlie race-based differences in face processing. We examined the developmental origins of this mechanism in two groups of Caucasian 9-month-olds. Infants in the experimental group exhibited a preference for a pattern containing a single Asian face among seven Caucasian faces over a pattern containing a single Caucasian face among seven Asian faces. This preference was not driven by the majority of elements in the images, because a control group of infants failed to exhibit a preference between homogeneous patterns containing eight Caucasian versus eight Asian faces. The results demonstrate that an other-race face among own-race faces attracts infants' attention but not vice versa. This perceptual asymmetry suggests that the other-race feature is available to Caucasians by 9 months of age, thereby indicating that mechanisms of specialization in face processing originate early in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-275
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant HD042451 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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