Human faces automatically attract visual attention and this process appears to be guided by social group memberships. In two experiments, we examined how social groups guide selective attention toward in-group and out-group faces. Black and White participants detected a target letter among letter strings superimposed on faces (Experiment 1). White participants were less accurate on trials with racial out-group (Black) compared to in-group (White) distractor faces. Likewise, Black participants were less accurate on trials with racial out-group (White) compared to in-group (Black) distractor faces. However, this pattern of out-group bias was only evident under high perceptual load-when the task was visually difficult. To examine the malleability of this pattern of racial bias, a separate sample of participants were assigned to mixed-race minimal groups (Experiment 2). Participants assigned to groups were less accurate on trials with their minimal in-group members compared to minimal out-group distractor faces, regardless of race. Again, this pattern of out-group bias was only evident under high perceptual load. Taken together, these results suggest that social identity guides selective attention toward motivationally relevant social groups-shifting from out-group bias in the domain of race to in-group bias in the domain of minimal groups-when perceptual resources are scarce.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)