A multidimensional scaling analysis of own- and cross-race face spaces

Cognition. 2010 Aug;116(2):283-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.05.001. Epub 2010 May 23.


We examined predictions derived from Valentine's (1991) Multidimensional Space (MDS) framework for own- and other-race face processing. A set of 20 computerized faces was generated from a single prototype. Each face was saved as Black and White, changing only skin tone, such that structurally identical faces were represented in both race categories. Participants made speeded "same-different" judgments to all possible combinations of faces, from which we generated psychological spaces, with "different" RTs as the measure of similarity. Consistent with the MDS framework, all faces were pseudo-normally distributed around the (unseen) prototype. The distribution of faces was consistent with Valentine's (1991) predictions: despite their physical identity to the White faces, Black faces had lower mean inter-object distances in psychological space. Other-race faces are more densely clustered in psychological space, which could underlie well-known recognition deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • Black People
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Racial Groups*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • White People
  • Young Adult