The Processing of Multiple Facial Features: Age, Race and Sex

Jennifer Kuebbeler (2010). The Processing of Multiple Facial Features: Age, Race and Sex PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Jennifer Kuebbeler
Thesis Title The Processing of Multiple Facial Features: Age, Race and Sex
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Ottmar V. Lipp
Eric J. Vanman
Total pages 182
Total colour pages 1
Total black and white pages 181
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary Face processing is one of the most fundamental abilities for the members of our social species. We are constantly required to recognize faces, some of which we have only seen once before. If developmental problems or brain injuries impair the ability to process faces, one’s social life is greatly affected. In some instances healthy observers seem to experience difficulties recognizing others accurately. It has been shown that observers systematically recognize some faces better than others. The other-race effect describes the tendency of people to recognize faces of their own race more accurately than other-race faces (Brigham, 2008). Recently, an other-age effect has been documented as well, that is, better recognition of own-age than other-age faces (e.g., Harrison & Hole, 2009). These effects have been classified according to a general ingroup/outgroup bias in recognition (Bernstein, Young, & Hugenberg, 2007; Sporer, 2001). The present thesis investigated how ingroups and outgroups become relevant when race, age and sex information is simultaneously available and how subsequent recognition may be affected. The main finding across this set of studies was that an other-race effect was present in recognition of own-age faces. No other-race effect occurred for other-age faces of different races. Additionally, the other-age effect was found to be limited to recognition of own-race faces. It is suggested that observers apply one feature to determine group membership of some faces, but use a different feature for other faces. For instance, race information biased processing of young faces, but age information determined processing of old faces. The encoding of sex information did not seem to affect subsequent recognition. The observer seems capable of rapidly switching between processing of different features for the ingroup/outgroup categorization, suggesting that there is no fixed sequence for the processing of different facial features. These findings are described in Chapter 2, in a series of studies that form the basis of the present research program. The experimental chapters that follow report studies that mainly confirmed results of these first investigations. In addition, it was found that processing of own- and other-age faces results in a pattern different to that generally found in perception of race-faces. Although an other-age effect was present in recognition, no difference in inversion cost or categorization speed was found when own- and other-age faces were processed (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 reports studies that investigated whether systematic recognition differences observed in earlier studies could be explained by differences in subjective likeability of ingroup and outgroup faces. Although a negative bias towards old faces, measured by implicit and explicit measures, was observed no correlation with recognition accuracy was present. Further investigations showed that a difference in exposure time during encoding improves overall recognition performance, but does not alter the recognition pattern. In Chapter 5 it was observed that the other-race effect was present irrespective of exposure duration and its magnitude was unchanged. The research reported in Chapter 6 examined whether the recognition pattern found in the previous chapters may change depending on observers’ mood state. The results showed that recognition is more accurate for own-age faces of the opposite sex when experiencing a positive mood. In summary, the present research showed that the other-race effect seems limited to own-age faces, and the other-age effect seems limited to own-race faces. Furthermore, when faces differ on multiple features, it seems that spontaneously (i.e., in absence of task demands that favor a particular feature) the ingroups and outgroups are formed based on age and race differences in preference to sex-related information. Future research may further investigate these feature interactions, considering that typically, various facial features are available when encoding a face.
Keyword face recognition, recognition bias, other-race effect, other-age effect, race, age, sex, ingroup, outgroup
Additional Notes 146

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Created: Mon, 18 Oct 2010, 08:54:15 EST by Ms Jennifer Kuebbeler on behalf of Library - Information Access Service