Individual Differences in Holistic Processing Predict the Own-Race Advantage in Recognition Memory

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DeGutis, Joseph ; Mercado, Rogelio J. ; Wilmer, Jeremy ; Rosenblatt, Andrew (2013)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 8, issue 4 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058253, pmc: PMC3622684
  • Subject: Sensory Perception | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Attention (Behavior) | Cognitive Psychology | Memory | Research Article | Mental Health | Sociology | Medicine | Experimental Psychology | Q | R | Psychology | Culture | Science | Behavior | Cross Culture (Sociology)

Individuals are consistently better at recognizing own-race faces compared to other-race faces (other-race effect, ORE). One popular hypothesis is that this recognition memory ORE is caused by differential own- and other-race holistic processing, the simultaneous integration of part and configural face information into a coherent whole. Holistic processing may create a more rich, detailed memory representation of own-race faces compared to other-race faces. Despite several studies showing that own-race faces are processed more holistically than other-race faces, studies have yet to link the holistic processing ORE and the recognition memory ORE. In the current study, we sought to use a more valid method of analyzing individual differences in holistic processing by using regression to statistically remove the influence of the control condition (part trials in the part-whole task) from the condition of interest (whole trials in the part-whole task). We also employed regression to separately examine the two components of the ORE: own-race advantage (regressing other-race from own-race performance) and other-race decrement (regressing own-race from other-race performance). First, we demonstrated that own-race faces were processed more holistically than other-race faces, particularly the eye region. Notably, using regression, we showed a significant association between the own-race advantage in recognition memory and the own-race advantage in holistic processing and that these associations were weaker when examining the other-race decrement. We also demonstrated that performance on own- and other-race faces across all of our tasks was highly correlated, suggesting that the differences we found between own- and other-race faces are quantitative rather than qualitative. Together, this suggests that own- and other-race faces recruit largely similar mechanisms, that own-race faces more thoroughly engage holistic processing, and that this greater engagement of holistic processing is significantly associated with the own-race advantage in recognition memory.
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