Perceptual expertise for other-race faces: So you think they all look alike?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Paul Chang


There is an adage that “all Asians look alike”. The perceptual expertise hypothesis proposes that differential processing of own-race versus other-race faces leads to a bias towards recognising own-race faces, presumably resulting from finer processing and an expertise effect. This study extended previous research on the own-race bias to a categorisation task to examine whether perceptual expertise for own-race faces can be transferred to higher performance at categorising own-race faces by their national origin. It was hypothesised that Asian (Chinese, Japanese, South Korean) participants would demonstrate higher accuracy and confidence at categorising Asian (Chinese, Japanese, South Korean) face stimuli compared to Caucasian (Australian) participants. It was also hypothesised that social contact with Asians would be positively related to performance accuracy and confidence, in accordance with the contact hypothesis. In the first part of the study, a manipulation check was carried out to select the most “typical” Chinese, Japanese and South Korean male and female face stimuli for the categorisation task. In the second part, participants were asked to categorise face stimuli by their national origin, indicate their level of confidence in their decisions and complete a quantity and quality of social contact questionnaire. The results support the perceptual expertise hypothesis of the own-race bias on a categorisation task and the contact hypothesis. Asian participants performed significantly above chance in correctly identifying the national origin of each face, and were significantly more accurate and confident than Caucasian Australian participants who performed at chance level. Social contact was positively associated with performance accuracy and confidence. The results suggest that the adage is misinformed and irrelevant. Asian faces do not all look alike, and through experience and expertise, participants categorise Asian faces at a high level

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