Race coding and the other-race effect in face recognition

Gillian Rhodes, Vance Locke, Louise Ewing, Emma Evangelista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Other-race faces are generally recognised more poorly than own-race faces. According to Levin's influential race-coding hypothesis, this other-race recognition deficit results from spontaneous coding of race-specifying information, at the expense of individuating information, in other-race faces. Therefore, requiring participants to code race-specifying information for all faces should eliminate the other-race effect by reducing recognition of own-race faces to the level of other-race faces. We tested this prediction in two experiments. Race coding was induced by requiring participants to rate study faces on race typicality (experiment 1) or to categorise them by race (experiment 2). Neither manipulation reduced the other-race effect, providing no support for the race-coding hypothesis. Instead, race-coding instructions marginally increased the other-race effect in experiment 1 and had no effect in experiment 2. These results do not support the race-coding hypothesis. Surprisingly, a control task of rating the attractiveness of study faces increased the other-race effect, indicating that deeper encoding of faces does not necessarily reduce the effect (experiment 1). Finally, the normally robust other-race effect was absent when participants were instructed to individuate other-race faces (experiment 2). We suggest that poorer recognition of other-race faces may reflect reduced perceptual expertise with such faces and perhaps reduced motivation to individuate them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-241
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Face
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Recognition (Psychology)
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult

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