Influences of culture and visual context on real-time social categorization

Jonathan B. Freeman, Yina Ma, Shihui Han, Nalini Ambady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social categorization is often thought to be based on facial features and immune to visual context. Moreover, East Asians have been argued to attend to context more than Westerners. American and Chinese participants were presented with faces varying along a White-Asian morph continuum either in American, neutral, or Chinese contexts. American contexts made White categorizations more likely, and Chinese contexts made Asian categorizations more likely. Further, the compatibility between facial and contextual cues influenced the directness of participants' hand trajectories en route to selecting a category response. Even when an ultimate response was not biased by context, the trajectory was nevertheless partially attracted to the category response associated with the context. Importantly, such partial attraction effects in hand trajectories revealed that the influence of context began earlier in time for Chinese relative to American participants. Together, the results show that context systematically influences social categorization, sometimes altering categorization responses and other times only temporarily altering the process. Further, the timing of contextual influences differs by culture. The findings highlight the role of contextual and cultural factors in social categorization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-210
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Culture
  • Face perception
  • Mouse-tracking
  • Social categorization
  • Time-course
  • Visual context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Influences of culture and visual context on real-time social categorization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this