Teleface: Serial reproduction of faces reveals a whiteward bias in race memory


How is race encoded into memory when viewing faces? Here we demonstrate a novel systematic bias in which our memories of faces converge on certain prioritized regions in our underlying ‘face space,’, as they relate to perceived race. This convergence was made especially salient using a new visual variant of the method of serial reproduction: ‘TeleFace.’ A single face was briefly presented, with its race selected from a smooth continuum between White and Black (matched for mean luminance). The observer then reproduced that face, using a slider to morph a test face along this continuum. Their response was then used as the face initially presented to the next observer, and so on down the line in each reproduction chain. White observers’ chains consistently and steadily converged onto faces significantly Whiter than they had initially encountered— Whiter than both the original face in the chain and the continuum’s midpoint— regardless of where chains began. Indeed, even chains beginning near the Black end of the continuum inevitably ended up well into White space. Very different patterns resulted when the same method was applied to other arbitrary face stimuli. These results highlight a systematic bias in memory for race in White observers, perhaps contributing to the more general notion in social cognition research of a `White default.’ (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(10), 1466-1487