An ambiguous-race illusion in children's face memory

  • Shutts K
  • Kinzler K
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Adults show better memory for ambiguous faces of their own race than for ambiguous faces of another race, even when the faces are identical and differentiated only by extraneous cues to racial category. We investigated whether similar context effects operate early in development. Young children raised in predominantly White environments were presented with computer-generated White-Black morphed faces, each paired with either the White or the Black face that contributed to its construction, and were told that the two faces in each pair were siblings. The children's subsequent recognition memory was more accurate for faces that had been paired with White siblings than for faces that had been paired with Black siblings. The same effect did not obtain when the ambiguous faces were paired with White or Black faces that did not contribute to their construction and did not look like siblings. These findings suggest that face memory in children is not driven exclusively by visual information present in faces and instead depends on an interplay of categorical and perceptual information about race and relationships.

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  • Kristin Shutts

  • Katherine D. Kinzler

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