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Who are you looking at? The influence of face gender on visual attention and memory for own- and other-race faces

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Previous research suggests that the own-race bias (ORB) in memory for faces is a result of other-race faces receiving less visual attention at encoding. As women typically display an own-gender bias in memory for faces and men do not, we investigated whether face gender and sex of viewer influenced visual attention and memory for own- and other-race faces, and if preferential viewing of own-race faces contributed to the ORB in memory. Participants viewed pairs of female or male own- and other-race faces while their viewing time was recorded. Afterwards, they completed a surprise memory test. We found that (1) other-race males received the initial focus of attention, (2) own-race faces were viewed longer than other-race faces over time, although the difference was larger for female faces, and (3) even though longer viewing time increased the probability of remembering a face, it did not explain the magnified ORB in memory for female faces. Importantly, these findings highlight that face gender moderates attentional responses to and memory for own- and other-race faces.
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Keywords: Face recognition; Own-gender bias; Own-race bias; Sex differences; Visual attention

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden 2: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden 3: Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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