Race-Based Perceptual Asymmetry in Face Processing Is Evident Early in Life

Angela Hayden, Ramesh S. Bhatt, Ashley Kangas, Nicole Zieber, Jane E. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Adults' processing of own-race faces differs from that of other-race faces. The presence of an "other-race" feature (ORF) has been proposed as a mechanism underlying this specialization. We examined whether this mechanism, which was previously identified in adults and in 9-month-olds, is evident at 3.5months. Caucasian 3.5-month-olds looked longer at a pattern containing a single Asian face among seven Caucasian faces than at a pattern containing a single Caucasian face among seven Asian faces. Homogenous and inverted face control conditions indicated that infants' preference was not driven by the majority of faces in arrays or by low-level features. Thus, 3.5-month-olds found the presence of an other-race face among own-race faces to be more salient than the reverse configuration. This asymmetry suggests sensitivity to an ORF at 3.5months. Thus, a key mechanism of race-based processing in adults has an early onset, indicating rapid development of specialization early in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-590
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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