Holistic processing, contact, and the other-race effect in face recognition

Mintao ZHAO*, William G. HAYWARD, Isabelle BÜLTHOFF*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

43 Citations (Scopus)


Face recognition, holistic processing, and processing of configural and featural facial information are known to be influenced by face race, with better performance for own- than other-race faces. However, whether these various other-race effects (OREs) arise from the same underlying mechanisms or from different processes remains unclear. The present study addressed this question by measuring the OREs in a set of face recognition tasks, and testing whether these OREs are correlated with each other. Participants performed different tasks probing (1) face recognition, (2) holistic processing, (3) processing of configural information, and (4) processing of featural information for both own- and other-race faces. Their contact with other-race people was also assessed with a questionnaire. The results show significant OREs in tasks testing face memory and processing of configural information, but not in tasks testing either holistic processing or processing of featural information. Importantly, there was no cross-task correlation between any of the measured OREs. Moreover, the level of other-race contact predicted only the OREs obtained in tasks testing face memory and processing of configural information. These results indicate that these various cross-race differences originate from different aspects of face processing, in contrary to the view that the ORE in face recognition is due to cross-race differences in terms of holistic processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
JournalVision Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Max Planck Society. Part of this study was also supported by the Grants from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council ( HKU 7440/08H and HKU 7449/11H to WGH).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Authors.


  • Configural processing
  • Face recognition
  • Featural processing
  • Holistic processing
  • Other-race effect


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