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Title page for ETD etd-06052012-132501

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Harrison, Stephenie Ashley
URN etd-06052012-132501
Title The Effect of Race on the Holistic Processing of Faces
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Isabel Gauthier Committee Chair
Michael Tarr Committee Member
Thomas Palmeri Committee Member
Timothy McNamara Committee Member
  • face perception
  • holistic processing
  • other-race effect
  • ingroup/outgroup categorization
Date of Defense 2012-05-24
Availability unrestricted
The Other-Race Effect (ORE) has been studied for nearly a century, yet the underlying mechanisms responsible for this robust phenomenon are still poorly understood. In this project, I have used the complete design version of the composite task to evaluate the effects of perceptual expertise and top-down sociocognitive biases on the holistic processing of faces. Contrary to previous results found using the partial design, Experiments 1 and 2 revealed that not only can other-race faces be processed holistically, but they were often processed just as holistically as same-race faces. Although timecourse examinations revealed that differences in holistic processing can arise with prolonged stimulus durations, the most robust ORE took the form of a fast-rising discrimination advantage for same-race faces. Experiments 3 and 4 investigated the possible effects of social biases arising from outgroup classification on holistic processing. I found no evidence that social categorization can influence holistic processing, which is consistent with previous findings demonstrating that holistic processing is robust to top-down manipulations. However, ingroup faces did benefit from an overall discrimination advantage, which might translate into enhanced recognition memory as is seen in the ORE. This project provides evidence that perceptual expertise and sociocognitive biases may both contribute to the ORE, but in slightly different ways. General attentional biases that boost overall discrimination performance may result from top-down cognitive factors, whereas reduced perceptual expertise likely drives the instances in which reduced holistic processing of other-race faces is observed.
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