A New Other-Race Effect for Gaze Perception

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Abstract

The well-known other-race effect in face recognition has been widely studied, both for its theoretical insights into the nature of face expertise and because of its social and forensic importance. Here we demonstrate an other-race effect for the perception of a simple visual signal provided by the eyes, namely gaze direction. In Study 1, Caucasian and Asian participants living in Australia both showed greater perceptual sensitivity to detect direct gaze in own-race than other-race faces. In Study 2, Asian (Chinese) participants living in Australia and Asian (Chinese) participants living in Hong Kong both showed this other-race effect, but Caucasian participants did not. Despite this inconsistency, meta-analysis revealed a significant other-race effect when results for all 5 participant groups from corresponding conditions in the 2 studies were combined. These results demonstrate a new other-race effect for the perception of the simple, but socially potent, cue of direct gaze. When identical morphed-race eyes were inserted into the faces, removing race-specific eye cues, no other-race effect was found (with 1 exception). Thus, the balance of evidence implicated perceptual expertise, rather than social motivation, in the other-race effect for detecting direct gaze.

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