Face format at encoding affects the other-race effect in face memory

Mintao ZHAO*, William G. HAYWARD, Isabelle BÜLTHOFF

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Memory of own-race faces is generally better thanmemory of other-races faces. This other-race effect (ORE) in face memory has been attributed to differences in contact, holistic processing, and motivation to individuate faces. Since most studies demonstrate the ORE with participants learning and recognizing static, single-viewfaces, it remains unclear whether the ORE can be generalized to different face learning conditions. Using an old/new recognition task, we tested whether face format at encoding modulates the ORE. The results showed a significant ORE when participants learned static, single-view faces (Experiment 1). In contrast, the ORE disappeared when participants learned rigidly moving faces (Experiment 2). Moreover, learning faces displayed from four discrete views produced the same results as learning rigidlymoving faces (Experiment 3). Contact with other-race faces was correlated with the magnitude of the ORE. Nonetheless, the absence of the ORE in Experiments 2 and 3 cannot be readily explained by either more frequent contact with other-race faces or stronger motivation to individuate them. These results demonstrate that the ORE is sensitive to face format at encoding, supporting the hypothesis that relative involvement of holistic and featural processing at encoding mediates the ORE observed in face memory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Max Planck Society. Part of this study was also supported by grants from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council to WGH (HKU 7440/08H and HKU 7449/11H). We would like to thank Matt Oxner for assistance with data collection. Part of this study was presented at the 2013 annual workshop on Object Perception, Attention, and Memory (OPAM 2013), Toronto, Canada.


  • Encoding
  • Face memory
  • Face recognition
  • Holistic processing
  • Other-race effect


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