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Visual search for own- and other-race faces within and across race distractors

Qi Zhang (Jiangsu Normal University), Meng Jiang (Sichuan International Studies University), Shlomo Bentin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Lun Zhao (Beijing Yiran Sunny Technology Co. Ltd., Beijing, China)
Cite this article:  Zhang, Q., Jiang, M., Bentin, S., & Zhao, L. (2017). Visual search for own- and other-race faces within and across race distractors. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 45, 1829-1842.
Publication date: December 2017


A person’s race could be a very important feature that is used to differentiate between own-race and other-race faces during a visual search. Using well-controlled gray-scale images of people’s faces without salient relatively lower level race-specific features, such as color of hair and eyes, we investigated whether or not there is a visual search advantage for other-race over own-race faces. We found that both Chinese (n = 48) and Caucasian (n = 48) participants used serial and self-terminating search techniques, but neither racial group used pop-out or parallel search methods. An advantage favoring other-race faces was observed in visual search among Chinese participants, whereas neither advantage nor disadvantage was observed for other-race faces among the Caucasian participants. We discuss the mechanism underlying visual search to identify race of faces. Further, although the current data do not exclude the possibility of cultural diversity across races in regard to visual search, our findings point to the importance of observer’s race in cross-cultural studies in which visual search of human faces is used.

Full Text: PDF  pp. 1829-1842