What drives social in-group biases in face recognition memory? ERP evidence from the own-gender bias

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It is well established that memory is more accurate for own-relative to other-race faces (own-race bias), which has been suggested to result from larger perceptual expertise for own-race faces. Previous studies also demonstrated better memory for own-relative to other-gender faces, which is less likely to result from differences in perceptual expertise, and rather may be related to social in-group vs out-group categorization. We examined neural correlates of the own-gender bias using event-related potentials (ERP). In a recognition memory experiment, both female and male participants remembered faces of their respective own gender more accurately compared with other-gender faces. ERPs during learning yielded significant differences between the subsequent memory effects (subsequently remembered – subsequently forgotten) for own-gender compared with other-gender faces in the occipito-temporal P2 and the central N200, whereas neither later subsequent memory effects nor ERP old/new effects at test reflected a neural correlate of the own-gender bias. We conclude that the own-gender bias is mainly related to study phase processes, which is in line with sociocognitive accounts.

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