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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Pre-registered Research Grant Report by Tomás A. Palma

10.01.2023, by Media Account in grant report

Do individuation instructions reduce the cross-race effect? A registered replication of Hugenberg, Miller, and Claypool (2007).

Research Team: Tomás A. Palma, Francisco Cruz, Emil Bansemer, Joshua Correll (top row); Sara Fonseca, Patrícia Gonçalves, Ana Sofia Santos (bottom row)
Research Team: Tomás A. Palma, Francisco Cruz, Emil Bansemer, Joshua Correll (top row); Sara Fonseca, Patrícia Gonçalves, Ana Sofia Santos (bottom row)

Research Report

The tendency for perceivers to have less accurate recognition memory for cross-race (CR) faces than for same-race (SR) faces is known as Cross-Race Effect (CRE; Malpass & Kravitz, 1969). The CRE is one of the best-replicated phenomena in the face perceptionliterature and has been shown to generalize across several research paradigms and participant populations (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). In addition to being a theoretically compelling phenomenon, the CRE can result in potentially deleterious consequences of misidentifying members of racial outgroups leading them to feel insulted or stereotyped, while the perceiver can experience feelings of embarrassment or social opprobrium (Brigham & Malpass, 1985). These add to the most serious legal consequences, such as convictions based on misidentifications of suspects.
Given the social consequences that the CRE brings forth, studying the psychological determinants of this phenomenon is of great interest as it can contribute to reducing its negative impact. One of the most influential theoretical perspectives on the CRE is the categorization-individuation model (CIM; Hugenberg et al., 2010). According to this perspective, the CRE derives from the tendency to think about outgroup members categorically and search for category-specifying features (e.g., skin tone, nose width, lip thickness), whereas ingroup members are perceived in terms of their individuating features. Thus, if different social cognitions about these two groups are responsible for the CRE (i.e., categorize CR faces but individuate SR faces), then changing these social cognitions may be sufficient to reduce or eliminate the CRE. Specifically, inducing perceivers to individuate CR faces may eliminate the CRE. Adding to the role of social categorization and individuation motivation, the CIM (Hugenberg et al., 2010) also posits that enhanced perceiver expertise with a group of faces (e.g., SR faces) will facilitate face memory with those faces. However, face expertise translates into accurate recognition only when perceivers are motivated to individuate faces. In this sense, although experience in distinguishing between SR members plays a role in the CRE, both sufficient perceptual expertise and individuation motivation are necessary conditions to successfully discriminate between CR faces. This assumption was supported by Young and Hugenberg (2012), who found that contact with CR faces only led to a reduction of the CRE when participants were motivated to individuate CR faces.
We revisited these assumptions by running a preregistered replication an experimental manipulation designed to prompt people to individuate CR faces. Hugenberg et al. (2007) provided participants with individuation instructions, which highlighted the existence of the CRE and explicitly asked participants to individuate faces, focusing especially on CR faces. Hugenberg et al. (2007) found that these instructions reduced the CRE by increasing recognition accuracy for CR faces. Several authors have attempted to replicate these findings, but results were mixed (i.e., out of the 10 replication studies, only two replicated the interaction effect that describes the reduction of the CRE highlighted above). We focused simultaneously on Hugenberg et al.’s (2007) experiments on individuation instructions and on the role of contact in reducing the CRE (as explored by Young & Hugenberg, 2012), using high-quality stimuli and additional attention checks, via two Experiments with a priori sample size determination, across cultures with differing degrees of racial diversity (i.e., United States – Experiment 1A; Portugal – Experiment 1B).

Experiment 1A – United States
520 White participants from the United States (final N = 310) studied 40 target faces (20 Black and 20 White), randomly selected from a list of 120 faces. Half of participants received no instructions, whereas the remaining participants received the individuation instructions developed by Hugenberg et al. (2007). After a distractor task, participants were presented 80 faces (40 faces presented previously, plus 20 Black and 20 White new faces, or lures), and had to decide whether each face had been presented in the initial study phase or not. Finally, participants completed an adapted version of the CR contact scale developed by Hancock and Rhodes (2008). Thus, our experimental design was a mixed 2 (Face race: White vs. Black; within-subjects) x 2 (Instructions condition: Individuation vs. Control; between-subjects). As expected, participants recognized SR faces more accurately than SR faces. However, there were no differences in accuracy recognition across the instruction conditions (control vs. individuation), and, crucially, individuation instructions did not decrease the CRE relative to control instructions. Furthermore, there were no differences in the CRE nor interactions with instruction condition as a function of contact with CR faces; finally, contact with CR faces alone did not reduce the CRE. In fact, Bayesian analyses found support in favour of the absence of an effect for the findings reported by Hugenberg et al. (2007) and Young and Hugenberg (2012).

Experiment 1B – Portugal
361 White Portuguese participants took part in this Experiment (final N = 293). Procedure and experimental design were the same as the ones used in Experiment 1A. In line with the results from Experiment 1A, we failed to replicate Hugenberg et al.’s (2007) reduction of the CRE following individuation instructions, as well as the effects of contact in the Face Race x Instructions interaction (i.e., found in Young & Hugenberg, 2012).
Conjoint Analyses
To assess the moderator role of racial diversity on the impact of individuation instructions on the CRE, we ran the primary analyses of interest after combining the data from the two experiments. We found no evidence for the role of individuation instructions on the CRE, and racial diversity did not moderate this key interaction.
Concluding Remarks
In the present Experiments, we sought to re-examine key assumptions underlying the the CIM, one of the most influential theoretical frameworks for explaining the CRE. Contrary to what Hugenberg et al. (2007) reported, we found no evidence that individuation instructions – instructions that prompt individuals to individuate CR faces – reduce the CRE by improving performance for CR faces. Furthermore, we failed to replicate Young and Hugenberg’s (2012) claim that increased CR contact enables one to properly discriminate CR faces when one is motivated to do so (i.e., under individuation instructions. Our results were consistent across countries with differing racial diversity (i.e., US and Portugal).

This research was conducted in collaboration with Francisco Cruz, Sara Fonseca, Patricia Gonçalves, and Ana Sofia Santos from the University of Lisbon, and Emil Bansemer and Joshua Correll from the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. A manuscript has already been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology .We are thankful for the opportunity afforded by the EASP Pre-registered Research Grants, allowing us to conduct Experiment 1B.


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Hugenberg, K., Miller, J., & Claypool, H. M. (2007). Categorization and individuation in the cross-race recognition deficit: Toward a solution to an insidious problem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 334-340.
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