What is it about?

White people confuse Black faces more than their own-race faces. This is an example of the other-race effect. When scientists conduct research to understand the other-race effect, they often measure it by means of the old-new face recognition task. Surprisingly, in a very similar task commonly used to measure social categorization, the other-race effect is rarely found. We found out why (in short, each portrait is shown several times and not only once in the latter task), and adapted the second task so that it can also measure the other-race effect.

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Why is it important?

Unresolved empirical contradictions, like two highly similar tasks producing diametrically opposed data patterns, can hinder the progress of both empirical research and theory development. By removing such an obstacle, new and better research can be conducted - in our case, to understand the other-race effect. For example, our findings make it easier to investigate whether the other-race effect is only due to White people's lack of experience in recognizing faces of Black people, or if perceiving them as outgroup members also contributes to the effect. The other-race effect contributes to racial discrimination e.g. through increasing innocent convictions of Black people. Therefore, understanding the other-race effect better may help to eventually mitigate it and its detrimental societal outcomes.


For me, this article provides yet another example of how contradictions and inconsistencies in current knowledge can be highly fruitful if they spark irritation, interest, and ultimately insight. While researchers usually look for such inconsistencies in theories, the present paper suggests that it may be equally rewarding to investigate contradictions between measurement methods and their associated data patterns.

Felicitas Flade
Johannes Gutenberg Universitat Mainz

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Closing a conceptual gap in race perception research: A functional integration of the other-race face recognition and “who said what?” paradigms., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000388.
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