The limits of super recognition: An other-ethnicity effect in individuals with extraordinary face recognition skills

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Abstract

In the last decade there has been increasing interest in super-recognizers, who have an extraordinary ability to recognize faces. However, it has not yet been investigated whether these individuals are subject to the same biases in face recognition as typical perceivers. The most renowned constraint reported to date is the other-ethnicity effect, whereby people are better at recognizing faces from their own, compared with other, ethnicities. If super-recognizers also show this bias, it is possible that they are no better at other-ethnicity face recognition than typical native perceivers-a finding that would have important theoretical and practical implications. In the current study, eight Caucasian super-recognizers performed other-ethnicity tests of face memory and face matching. In Experiment 1, super-recognizers outperformed Caucasian but not Asian controls in their memory for Asian faces. In Experiment 2, a similar pattern emerged in some super-recognizers on a test of face matching. Finally, Experiment 3 examined the consistency of superior other-ethnicity face matching in relation to Caucasian controls, using Arab and Black faces. Only four super-recognizers consistently outperformed controls, and other-ethnicity matching performance was not related to Caucasian face-matching or own- or otherethnicity face memory. These findings suggest that super-recognizers are subject to the same biases as typical perceivers, and are simply those at the top end of a common face recognition spectrum as opposed to a qualitatively different group of individuals.

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APA

Bate, S., Bennetts, R., Hasshim, N., Portch, E., Murray, E., Burns, E., & Dudfield, G. (2019). The limits of super recognition: An other-ethnicity effect in individuals with extraordinary face recognition skills. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45(3), 363–377. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000607

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