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Durham University



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Publication details

Tüttenberg, Simone C. & Wiese, Holger (2019). Learning own- and other-race facial identities: Testing implicit recognition with event-related brain potentials. Neuropsychologia 134: 107218.

Author(s) from Durham


Exposure to varying images of the same person can encourage the formation of a representation that is sufficiently robust to allow recognition of previously unseen images of this person. While behavioural work suggests that face identity learning is harder for other-race faces, the present experiment investigated the neural correlates underlying own- and other-race face learning. Participants sorted own- and other-race identities into separate identity clusters and were further familiarised with these identities in a matching task. Subsequently, we compared event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in an implicit recognition (butterfly detection) task for learnt and previously unseen identities. We observed better sorting and matching for own-than other-race identities, and behavioural learning effects were restricted to own-race identities. Similarly, the N170 ERP component showed clear learning effects for own-race faces only. The N250, a component more closely associated with face learning was more negative for learnt than novel identities. ERP findings thus suggests a processing advantage for own-race identities at an early perceptual level whereas later correlates of identity learning were unaffected by ethnicity. These results suggest learning advantages for own-race identities, which underscores the importance of perceptual expertise in the own-race bias.