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Outgroup faces hamper word recognition

Abstract

The present study explores socio-cultural priming in native-language processing. Caucasian Italian native speakers completed a written lexical decision task. Written stimuli were preceded by either a prime “white” face (ingroup condition) or a prime “black” face (outgroup condition). Face priming effects were observed in three experiments using different stimuli. Participants were slower in categorizing words, but not non-words, when preceded by an outgroup face than by an ingroup face. Several psycholinguistic variables were manipulated to localize the levels of processing that are affected by socio-cultural prime. The lack of effect with non-word items excludes the possibility that the face priming effect arises at perceptual or attentive levels of processing. In addition, we observed that while the face priming effect does not interact with lexical dimensions, it does interact with a semantic dimension such as imageability. The results indicate that social categories extracted from faces may modulate lexico-semantic processing. Interestingly, such a modulation would occur in the context of a quick and automatic process like visual word recognition in a person’s native language.

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Notes

  1. We are aware that human beings are characterized by somatic differences in a continuum. But, at the same time, social processes do work in terms of categories. For this reason, we address the somatic differences of the stimuli in terms of perceived social categories.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Giorgia Giovanardi and Daniela di Menza for their help in data collection and Caterina Suitner for her helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Eduardo Navarrete.

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Sulpizio, S., Navarrete, E. Outgroup faces hamper word recognition. Psychological Research 84, 2300–2310 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01226-x

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