Expertise and the own-age bias in face recognition

Harrison, Virginia M (2011) Expertise and the own-age bias in face recognition. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Previous research has shown that we recognise faces similar in age to ourselves
better than older or younger faces (e.g. Anastasi & Rhodes, 2006). The primary aim of this
thesis was to investigate this phenomenon in young adults and children to gain further
insight into the underlying perceptual, cognitive and/or social mechanisms involved in this
apparent “own-age bias” (OAB) in face recognition.

Chapter one confirmed that an OAB was present in both young adults and children,
and the remaining chapters sought to address why this pattern may exist by drawing on the
plethora of research into why a similar, potentially analogous bias occurs: the own-race bias (ORB). The ORB is the phenomenon that we are more accurate at recognising faces of our own race than those belonging to a different, less familiar race (see Meissner & Brigham, 2001 for review).

Perhaps the best known explanation of the ORB is the Contact Hypothesis. This
suggests that the own-race memory advantage is due to the fact that people tend to have
more experience with faces from their own race and, as a direct result, develop greater
expertise at recognising them (e.g. Chiroro & Valentine, 1995). The second chapter sought
to investigate whether a similar explanation could be applied to the OAB, and found
supporting evidence for this claim.

The remaining studies examined what it is about contact with an age group that
results in the superior recognition for faces of that age. By investigating perceptual
expertise, social-categorisation and motivational explanations of the OAB, this thesis
concluded that both quantity and quality of contact play an important role in the
development of this bias. The findings of this thesis seem to be most consistent with a
perceptual expertise account of the own-age bias in face recognition. However, it also
seems likely that motivation to attend to faces (particularly with the goal of individuation)
is likely to be a driving factor of this bias.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: Q Science > QZ Psychology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2011 05:44
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2015 14:50
Google Scholar:2 Citations

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