The role of implicit social bias on holistic processing of out-group faces

Wei Chen, Mahlet T. Kassa, Olivia S. Cheung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although faces of in-group members are generally thought to be processed holistically, there are mixed findings on whether holistic processing remains robust for faces of out-group members and what factors contribute to holistic processing of out-group faces. This study examined how implicit social bias, experience with out-group members, and ability to process in-group faces holistically might predict the magnitude of holistic processing for faces of two out-groups: other-race and other-age groups. In Experiment 1, Caucasian participants viewed Caucasian (own-race) and East Asian (other-race) faces. In Experiment 2, young adult participants viewed young adult (own-age) and baby (other-age) faces. Each participant completed a composite task with in-group and out-group faces, an implicit association test, and questionnaires about their experience with in-group and out-group members. We found that while the participants had relatively extensive experience with the other-race group, they had limited experience with the other-age group. Nonetheless, implicit social bias was found to positively predict the magnitude of holistic processing for both other-race and other-age faces. Exploratory analyses on the interactions among the predictors suggest that the effect of implicit social bias was primarily observed in participants with strong holistic processing ability of in-group faces but with low level of experience with members of the out-groups. These findings suggest that observers utilize different kinds of information when processing out-group faces, and that social features, such as race or age, are incorporated to influence how out-group faces are processed efficiently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Composite task
  • Face perception
  • Implicit association test
  • Individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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