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Bilingualism shapes the other race effect / Edwin J. Burns; Jeremy Tree; Alice H.D. Chan; Hong Xu
Swansea University Author: Jeremy, Tree
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It has recently been suggested that the other race effect (ORE), whereby own race faces are recognised better than those of other races, can be abolished by bilingualism. Bilingualism, however, is not a categorical variable but can vary dramatically in proficiency across the two languages. We theref...
|Published in:||Vision Research|
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It has recently been suggested that the other race effect (ORE), whereby own race faces are recognised better than those of other races, can be abolished by bilingualism. Bilingualism, however, is not a categorical variable but can vary dramatically in proficiency across the two languages. We therefore hypothesised that increasing bilingual proficiency should be associated with a diminishing ORE. To test this, we asked a group of bilingual Singaporean Chinese individuals to complete the Asian and Caucasian Cambridge Face Memory Tests. In contrast to recent work, our bilinguals did as a group exhibit an ORE, however, the magnitude of this effect decreased as reported cross-language proficiency increased; Chinese, rather than English, listening ability drove this association. This relationship persisted even when taking into account our participants' exposure to Caucasians, own race memory ability, age, and gender. Moreover, we discounted the possibility that bilingualism merely reflected participants' underlying intelligence. Increasing auditory bilingualism thus diminishes perceptual narrowing for faces. We propose that other race recognition ability reflects the base level of intrinsic, domain specific face memory, whereas the distance in recognition performance between own and other race faces is comprised of a domain general process related to stimulus individuation. Finally, our results have serious implications for how we can interpret prior research investigating the ORE, and culture's influence on visual perception, due to the confounding influence of bilingualism.