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The face and race: facial recognition, categorisation, and variability

Cenac, Z. (2021). The face and race: facial recognition, categorisation, and variability. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Observers make use of facial details to recognise the identity of an individual person, and categorise them in various ways such as in terms of gender and race. However, race can have an influence on the accuracy with which faces are recognised and categorised by gender, whilst gender may affect facial race categorisation. This thesis explored the face and race under two topics: the recognition of identity, and the categorisation of gender and race. Regarding identity recognition, clarification is required concerning the mechanisms which underlie the phenomenon of face recognition memory being lesser for other-race than own-race faces (the other-race effect); the role of childhood experience is uncertain, as is whether facial variability is constant between races/ethnicities, and if the other-race effect is considerably perceptually-driven. As for gender and race categorisation, it is not clear what leads to gender being categorised less proficiently for other- than own-race faces (the other-race gender effect), and in what ways there is an influence of gender on race categorisation. On the topic of identity recognition, this thesis found that i) childhood experience did not relate to the other-race effect or the recognition of other-race faces (Chapter 2), ii) the morphological variability of the face lessened with increasing migratory distance (from inside of Africa), which raises the possibility of racial/ethnic variability differences moderating the other-race effect (Chapter 3), and iii) results favoured a perceptual basis to the other-race effect for Caucasian, yet not East Asian, observers (Chapter 3). On gender categorisation, it was demonstrated that the other-race gender effect related to other- vs. own-race differences in the local facial processing of gender and gender categorisation bias (Chapter 4). As for race categorisation, facial gender affected race category boundaries and race categorisation precision; results suggested that observers account for the lighter skin tone of females (rather than the darker male skin tone) when categorising race, and that morphology (rather than luminance) drives the effect of gender (Chapter 5). Implications are discussed in the context of the other-race effect, the other-race gender effect, and race categorisation.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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