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The Role of Race in Summary Representations of Faces

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Jung,  W-M
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bülthoff,  I
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Armann,  R
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Jung, W.-M., Bülthoff, I., Thornton, I., Lee, S.-W., & Armann, R. (2013). The Role of Race in Summary Representations of Faces. Poster presented at 13th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2013), Naples, FL, USA.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-4E75-5
Abstract
One possibility to overcome the processing limitation of the visual system is to attend selectively to relevant information only. Another strategy is to process sets of objects as ensembles and represent their average characteristics instead of individual group members (e.g., mean size, brightness, orientation). Recent evidence suggests that ensemble representation might occur even for human faces (for a summary, see Alvarez, 2011), i.e., observers can extract the mean emotion, sex, and identity from a set of faces (Habermann Whitney, 2007; de Fockert Wolfenstein, 2009). Here, we extend this line of research into the realm of face race: Can we extract the "mean race" of a set of faces when no conscious perception of single individuals is possible? Moreover, does the visual system process own- and other-race faces differently at this stage? Face stimuli had the same (average) male identity but were morphed, at different levels, in between Asian and Caucasian appearance. Following earlier studies (e.g., Habermann Whitney, 2007, 2010), observers were briefly (250ms) presented with random sets of 12 of these faces. They were then asked to adjust a test face to the perceived mean race of the set by "morphing" it between Asian and Caucasian appearance. The results show that for most participants the response error distribution is significantly different from random, while their responses are centered around the real stimulus set mean - suggesting that they are able to extract "mean race". Also, we find a bias towards responding more "Asian" than the actual mean of a face set. All participants tested so far are South Korean (from Seoul), indicating that even at this early (unconscious) processing stage, the visual system distinguishes between own- and other-race faces, giving more weight to the former. Follow-up experiments on Caucasian participants will be performed to validate this observation.