, Volume 114, Issue 7, pp 951-957
Date: 23 Feb 2007

The other-race effect for face perception: an event-related potential study

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It is well known that a recognition bias can be observed whenever subjects have to decide whether they have seen a person before that belongs to a different ethical group. Although this “other-race effect” is well documented on a behavioural level, its underlying mechanisms remain unclear. One plausible explanation might be that cortical areas involved in face processing are not as effective for other-race faces due to a missing experience with individuals from other ethnical groups. This interpretation is strongly supported by a functional magnetic resonance imaging study showing decreased brain activity on other-race faces. Furthermore, two event-related potential studies revealed differences in brain activity in the first 250 ms after face presentation, but with inconsistent results. Therefore, we investigated 12 Caucasian subjects, showing them faces of Asian and Caucasian subjects in a perceptual priming paradigm and measured the event-related brain potentials. On a behavioural level we found slower reaction times to Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces in the unprimed condition, reflecting a deficit for Caucasian subjects to process other-race faces. In accordance with these behavioural data we see a significantly reduced late N250r amplitude in the unprimed condition to the Asian faces compared to the Caucasian faces. These results clearly indicate that the other-race effect was present in our sample and very specific only in the unprimed condition around 350–450 ms after stimulus onset.