30 October 2008

Developmental Psychology Group Awarded Grant

Jane Herbert, Michelle Heron and Olivier Pascalis have been awarded a 2-year ESRC grant (£82,000) for a project entitled "Can experience change the other race effect?" An abstract is below:


The difficulty that adults have in recognising and discriminating between faces from other ethnic groups compared to faces of one's own group is a well-established phenomenon. Surprisingly, this reduced ability with other-race faces emerges very early in infancy: 6-month-olds can tell the difference between faces of other ethnic groups but 9-month-olds cannot. This loss of ability is thought to be a consequence of experience with faces in our environment. That is, experience with one's own race results in expertise in identifying individuals within that group. In contrast, a lack of experience with individuals outside our own race results in relatively poor discrimination and recognition abilities for those faces. The current research will determine whether additional learning experiences might enable infants to maintain their face processing ability at 9-months of age. In two studies, we will investigate whether a few minutes of exposure is sufficient to allow infants to develop the skill of discriminating individual other-race faces, or whether a prolonged period of exposure (incorporated into parent-child book reading) is necessary to retain a flexible processing system. This research will shed light on the plasticity of face-processing skills early in development and determine how infants learn to recognise and categorise different people in their environment.