Social groups prioritize selective attention to faces: How social identity shapes distractor interference

Gewnhi Park, Jay J. Van Bavel, La Barron K. Hill, De Wayne P. Williams, Julian F. Thayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0161426
JournalPloS one
Volume11
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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