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Agrippa
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006, 01:23 AM
Racial feature similarity in eye of beholder
By IRIS KUO
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - Caucasians often look alike -- at least to people who aren't Caucasian. For that matter, blacks often look alike to whites and Hispanics to Asians.

It's not that people of any one race or ethnicity, such as Hispanics, are harder to distinguish; researchers say that individual features vary equally among races and ethnicities. Rather, it's that people have problems telling people from another group apart.

The so-called cross-race effect is something of a misnomer because the phenomenon includes ethnic, cultural and regional groups as well as racial ones.

But such misidentifications aren't due to racism, said Roy Malpass, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who has published widely on the cross-race effect. "People make about 50 percent more errors" when they're asked to remember other-race faces, he said.

Malpass bases his estimate on experiments in which researchers asked subjects to study equal numbers of faces from their race and from a different race. After some time passed, the subjects looked at twice the number of faces they'd seen before -- half of them seen in the earlier trial and half introduced for the first time -- and identified those they thought they'd seen before. They all did much better with their own race.

Steve Casteel, a vice president at Vance International, a worldwide security firm based in Oakton, Va., who also worked with U.S. Iraq envoys Paul Bremer and John Negroponte, saw that problem in real life among U.S. screeners on the Syrian border.

They'd ask admission-seekers who turned out to be foreign fighters, "'Where are you from?'" Casteel recalled, "and they'd say 'Mosul,' and they'd let them in.

"An Iraqi would know they weren't from Iraq immediately" from their faces and from other cultural cues, Casteel said.

"Americans, you have to give them a six-month course and even then they wouldn't get that right," Casteel said.

Practice and motivation -- such as courting foreign business or someone of another race -- can overcome the cross-race effect to a degree. "But you are much less rapid and accurate," said Scania de Schonen, a neuroscientist at the University Rene Descartes in Paris who has studied the cross-race effect in babies, adoptees and immigrants.

People develop recognition skills in infancy, honing them on the faces they see most often, Schonen said, and those are mostly of their own race.

Much of that skill building is done by the age of 3, she believes; nearly all by age 9.

"After some years it seems that you cannot adapt anymore," Schonen said.

Malpass theorizes that the brain becomes less malleable in the area responsible for recognition and that people try to remember faces by focusing on the physical traits that vary in their own race -- hair, eye color and noses among Caucasians, for example.

When those traits don't vary much in another race, such as Asians, they're stymied. Or they fix on traits that differ in other races, such as eye folds among Asians, which don't help them tell Asians apart.

"We're looking for things that distinguish them for us," Malpass said, "but not the things that distinguish them from each other."

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/nation/14423075.htm

QuietWind
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006, 02:00 AM
This is similar to what I have read before regaridng in-group/ out-group perceptions also. Individuals of an in-group are perecieved as having more differences, while those of an out-group tend to be lumped together as the same.....

there is much more to it than my simplistic explanation above.

Agrippa
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006, 02:32 AM
This is similar to what I have read before regaridng in-group/ out-group perceptions also. Individuals of an in-group are perecieved as having more differences, while those of an out-group tend to be lumped together as the same.....

there is much more to it than my simplistic explanation above.


Not that new me thinks, but good to read it again since its an interesting fact. Humans are real social beings which function finally on a more collective level - and collectives need some kind of definition and the most natural one is race most likely. Though it could be about even more superficial characteristics too, like clothings etc., since human can "culturalise" originally biological distinctions to a certain degree. But I think thats partly innate, at least as a program and that it is question of experiences in early life too. So it would be interesting if a black child which was adopted by whites or vice versa would show the same tendency as white children - distinguish whites with the same efficiency. I dont know of such studies though. They dont speak about mixed race societies too even, what makes me wonder, since in such people "could learn" to cope with different racial types as well.
I think they could, but if there is a "rest difference" even then would be interesting to research.

Digitalseal
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006, 04:14 AM
old news....