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Evidence for a Perceptual-to-Social Transition in Infant Categorization of Other-Race Faces

56.532, Tuesday, 20-May, 2:45 pm - 6:45 pm, Pavilion
Session: Face perception: Experience, learning and expertise 2

Paul C. Quinn1, Kang Lee2, Olivier Pascalis3, James W. Tanaka4; 1Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, 2Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto, 3Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neurocognition, Universite Pierre Mendes, Grenoble, France, 4Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Prior research has investigated how infants categorize same- versus other-race faces, but not how infants represent different classes of other-race faces. For example, Anzures, Quinn, Pascalis, Slater, and Lee (2010) examined how Caucasian 6- to 9-month-olds categorized Caucasian versus Asian faces. Six-month-old performance was dominated by a spontaneous preference for own-race faces. Nine-month-olds habituated to Caucasian or Asian faces generalized habituation to novel instances from the familiarized category and dishabituated to novel category instances. The results indicate that 9-month-olds form distinct category representations for own- versus other-race faces, but leave open the question of how different classes of other-race faces are represented. That is, we do not know if infants respond categorically to the perceptual distinctions between different classes of other-race faces or if infants represent other-race faces more socially as a broad out-group class. The current study therefore used a familiarization/novelty-preference procedure to investigate formation of category representations for faces from two other-race classes (Asian vs. African) by Caucasian 6- and 9-month-olds. Both age groups were familiarized with Asian or African faces and tested with novel Asian versus novel African faces. Six-month-olds generalized looking time responsiveness to novel instances from the familiarized category and preferred novel category instances. However, 9-month-olds did not prefer novel category instances. Moreover, in a control experiment, Caucasian 9-month-olds familiarized with Caucasian or other-race faces (Asian or African) and tested with novel Caucasian versus novel other-race faces preferred novel category instances, replicating Anzures et al. The results indicate that while Caucasian 6-month-olds categorically represent the distinction between African and Asian faces, Caucasian 9-month-olds form a broad other-race category inclusive of African and Asian faces, but exclusive of own-race Caucasian faces. The findings suggest that infants initially categorize other-race faces on a perceptual basis and subsequently represent those faces on a more social (i.e., out-group) basis.

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