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Thirty Years of Investigating the Own-Race Bias in Memory for Faces: A Meta-Analytic Review



The current article reviews the own-race bias (ORB) phenomenon in memory for human faces, the finding that own-race faces are better remembered when compared with memory for faces of another, less familiar race. Data were analyzed from 39 research articles, involving 91 independent samples and nearly 5,000 participants. Measures of hit and false alarm rates, and aggregate measures of discrimination accuracy and response criterion were examined, including an analysis of 8 study moderators. Several theoretical relationships were also assessed (i.e., the influence of racial attitudes and interracial contact). Overall, results indicated a "mirror effect" pattern in which own-race faces yielded a higher proportion of hits and a lower proportion of false alarms compared with other-race faces. Consistent with this effect, a significant ORB was also found in aggregate measures of discrimination accuracy and response criterion. The influence of perceptual learning and differentiation processes in the ORB are discussed, in addition to the practical implications of this phenomenon. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)