Do individual differences in face recognition ability moderate the other ethnicity effect?

Michael Jeanne Childs, Alex Jones, Peter Thwaites, Sunčica Zdravković, Craig Thorley, Atsunobu Suzuki, Rachel Shen, Qi Ding, Edwin Burns, Hong Xu, Jeremy J. Tree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals are better at recognizing faces from their own ethnic group compared with other ethnicity faces-the other-ethnicity effect (OEE). This finding is said to reflect differences in experience and familiarity to faces from other ethnicities relative to faces corresponding with the viewers' ethnicity. However, own-ethnicity face recognition performance ranges considerably within a population, from very poor to extremely good. In addition, within-population recognition performance on other-ethnicity faces can also vary considerably with some individuals being classed as "other ethnicity face blind" (Wan et al., 2017). Despite evidence for considerable variation in performance within population for faces of both types, it is currently unclear whether the magnitude of the OEE changes as a function of this variability. By recruiting large-scale multinational samples, we investigated the size of the OEE across the full range of own and other ethnicity face performance while considering measures of social contact. We find that the magnitude of the OEE is remarkably consistent across all levels of within-population own- and other-ethnicity face recognition ability, and this pattern was unaffected by social contact measures. These findings suggest that the OEE is a persistent feature of face recognition performance, with consequences for models built around very poor, and very good face recognizers. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-907
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • face recognition
  • ethnicity


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