Names can significantly change peoples perception of someone’’s face and race

October 29th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama

Washington, October 29 (ANI): Had Barack Obam taken his mother Ann Durhams surname, people would have perceived him to be a different political candidate altogether, for a new study suggests that a name significantly changes our perception of someone’’s face and race.
Researchers at the UNSW School of Psychology have revealed that their study was based on the hypothesis that the presence of racially-suggestive names could influence participants” perception of identical multiracial faces, resulting in multiracial faces being judged to look more like the racial group suggested by their name.
Participants in the study entitled Barack Obama or Barry Dunham?, published by the journal Perception, rated multi-racial faces with European names as looking significantly “more European” than exactly the same multi-racial faces when given Asian names.
During the study, 64 participants were asked to rate the appearance of Asian-Australian faces given typically Asian names, European-Australian faces given typically European names, multiracial faces given Asian names, and multiracial faces given European names.
The participants comprised 32 Asian-Australian students and the same number of European-Australian students.
The researchers morphed the image of an Asian male with the image of a European male to create the multiracial stimulus faces.
They morphed together two Asian faces to create the Asian stimulus faces, and two European faces to create the European stimulus faces.
For each trial, after viewing the face and name for 3 seconds, participants rated the appearance of the face on a 9-point scale, where 1=”very Asian-looking” and 9=”very European-looking”.
“The study reveals how socially derived expectations and stereotypes can influence face perception. The result is consistent with other research findings suggesting that once people categorise a face into a racial group, they look for features consistent with that categorization,” says co-author and UNSW PhD student, Kirin Hilliar.
A previous study had shown that multiracial composite faces given stereotypically African-American hairstyles were perceived by both African-American and Hispanic participants as having darker skin, wider mouths, and less protruding eyes compared to the same faces given Hispanic hairstyles.
Dr Richard Kemp, a face-recognition expert and co-author of the study, said: “The own-race bias is often revealed in people being relatively poor at encoding and recalling the facial characteristics of an unfamiliar racial group. This study reveals that non-physical features such as a name can influence people’’s interpretation of facial characteristics.”
Hilliar added: “The next step in our research is to investigate whether these racially-suggestive names not only influence people’’s perception of multiracial faces, but also how well they will recognize these same faces later on.” (ANI)

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