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The Speed of Race

English title The Speed of Race
Applicant Caldara Roberto
Number 189018
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Psychologie Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.03.2020 - 29.02.2024
Approved amount 872'201.00
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Keywords (6)

Eye movements; EEG / ERP; fMRI; Brain damaged patient; other-race effect; face perception

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Le visage est sans doute la première et plus importante catégorie d’expertise visuelle chez l’humain. À travers les expositions répétées, nous développons la capacité de reconnaître en une fraction de seconde l’état émotionnel, l’âge, le genre, l’ethnie et l’identité d’une personne. L’importance de l’expérience avec les visages pour le développement de cette expertise visuelle est illustrée par un phénomène dont on peut faire l’expérience dans notre quotidien : le déficit marqué qu’ont les gens à reconnaître les visages d’individus d’une autre ethnie, comparativement aux visages de leur propre ethnie. Le Prof. Caldara et son laboratoire iBMLab (eye and Brain Mapping Laboratory) à l’Université de Fribourg ont une expertise et renommée internationale sur ce thème de recherche.
Lay summary

Ce projet vise à mener une série d’expériences afin de dévoiler  et quand l’ethnie d’un visage est traitée, de même que comment les stades précoces de ce traitement causent les résultats comportementaux observés en lien avec l’« Effet d’Autre Ethnie ». Afin de mieux comprendre les facteurs clés des deux cadres théoriques, nous avons planifié une série d’études qui nous permettront d’identifier son origine en : 

  1. Observant la dynamique neuronale de la catégorisation d’un visage en fonction de l’ethnie;
  2. Testant le rôle des mécanismes attentionnels dans la modulation de la catégorisation d’un visage en fonction de l’ethnie;
  3. Identifiant la nature des représentations mentales de visages de même et d’autre ethnie.

Ce cadre intégratif innovateur offrira de précieux éclaircissements sur la nature des effets liés à l’autre ethnie susmentionnés, avec des retombées positives qui transcenderont la communauté scientifique, s’appliquant par exemple aux systèmes judiciaire et pénal. Dans un monde sans cesse plus mondialisé et connecté, l’identification de sensibilités neuronales et la caractérisation des différences perceptives expliquant ces effets liés à l’ethnie ont le potentiel d’un profond impact théorique et social pour les interactions humaines dans nos sociétés multi-ethniques.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.12.2019

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Abstract

The face is arguably the first and foremost visual category of human expertise. Through repeated exposure, we develop the ability to recognise within a fraction of a second a person’s emotional states, age, gender, race and identity. The relevance of experience with faces for the development of this expertise is illustrated in an effect that can be observed in everyday life - the striking inability people have in recognising faces belonging to other-races compared to faces of their own race, the so-called Other-Race Effect (ORE). The ORE is important at the theoretical level for the understanding of how the neural face system and its processing tunes with experience, as well as on the very nature of face representations. This phenomenon also has practical consequences that range from the trivial to the deadly, such as eyewitness misidentification of other-race faces in criminal cases, as in the police shooting of Brazilian expat Jean Charles de Menzes in the day following a failed bombing of the London Underground. Interestingly, this decreased ability to recognise other-race faces due to decreased visual and social experience is paired by a seemingly paradoxical speed advantage humans have when the task requires categorising faces by race: the so-called Other-race Categorisation Advantage (ORCA). The ORCA relates to the faster response times elicited by other-race faces when observers categorise faces by race. However, while the ORE scientific literature is sizeable, only a few studies have investigated the ORCA, and none have explored the extent to which both effects are linked and tap into the very same mechanisms.Perceptual learning has been suggested to play a key role in diverse mechanisms and theoretical explanations of this phenomenon. Critically, however, we do not yet know at which stage in the early processing of faces that race effects begin to modulate our behaviour, or how attention to different aspects of faces as either a function of task or visual sampling bias may additionally modulate these effects. Thus, it is still unclear whether the ORE results either from suboptimal visual information processing for other-race faces or from a categorization that would occur at an earlier stage (i.e., ORCA) and would shape the subsequent processes, or both. In fact, the mere rapid categorization of people into ethnic groups might be sufficient to increase attention to in-group members and lead to a devaluation of out-group members, resulting in a decrease in face processing performance. We are thus at a point in the current state of research where a series of targeted experimental investigations should shed greatly-needed light on when and where race is processed in the brain, and how the early stages of this processing lead to the behavioural patterns observed in the other-race effects. To understand the key factors of both theoretical frameworks, we have thus planned a series of studies that aim to clearly identify the origin of the ORE and the ORCA, by:i. Tracking the neural dynamics of the ORCA.ii. Investigating the role of attention in the modulation of the ORCA.iii. Identifying the nature of same- and other-race face representations in the brain.We will use a psychophysical approach with experiments involving behavioural measures, electrophysiological, eye-movement signals, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), as well as brain damaged patients. When appropriate, an original dimension of our approach will be the co-registration of these three data-streams (behaviour, EEG and eye-movements), providing information on the spatiotemporal neural activity and information use in the ORE and ORCA.This innovative integrative framework will reveal critical insights on the nature of the other-race effects, with potential benefits of the research outlined here going well beyond the research community, as they could have a significant impact in criminal and justice settings. We also genuinely believe that in an increasingly globalized world and other-race migration flows identifying neural sensitivity and further characterizing the perceptual differences leading to the extraction of race information has the potential for profound theoretical and social impact for human interactions of our modern multi-racial societies.
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