PLoS ONE 7(6): e37688. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037688
Adults Scan Own- and Other-Race Faces Differently
Genyue Fu et al.
It is well established that individuals show an other-race effect (ORE) in face recognition: they recognize own-race faces better than other-race faces. The present study tested the hypothesis that individuals would also scan own- and other-race faces differently. We asked Chinese participants to remember Chinese and Caucasian faces and we tested their memory of the faces over five testing blocks. The participants' eye movements were recorded with the use of an eye tracker. The data were analyzed with an Area of Interest approach using the key AOIs of a face (eyes, nose, and mouth). Also, we used the iMap toolbox to analyze the raw data of participants' fixation on each pixel of the entire face. Results from both types of analyses strongly supported the hypothesis. When viewing target Chinese or Caucasian faces, Chinese participants spent a significantly greater proportion of fixation time on the eyes of other-race Caucasian faces than the eyes of own-race Chinese faces. In contrast, they spent a significantly greater proportion of fixation time on the nose and mouth of Chinese faces than the nose and mouth of Caucasian faces. This pattern of differential fixation, for own- and other-race eyes and nose in particular, was consistent even as participants became increasingly familiar with the target faces of both races. The results could not be explained by the perceptual salience of the Chinese nose or Caucasian eyes because these features were not differentially salient across the races. Our results are discussed in terms of the facial morphological differences between Chinese and Caucasian faces and the enculturation of mutual gaze norms in East Asian cultures.