The Own-Race Bias and the cerebral hemispheres

Soc Neurosci. 2019 Oct;14(5):549-558. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2018.1534755. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


The Own-Race Bias (ORB) is the ability to better recognize and categorize a face when the depicted person belongs to the observer's ethnicity group. The relationship between the ORB and hemispheric asymmetries has been poorly explored, and the present study was aimed at investigating this relationship, as well as that between the ORB and the bias to better recognize own gender faces. Female and male Caucasian participants categorized the ethnicity of Caucasian and Asian female and male facial stimuli in a divided visual field paradigm. In a control experiment the same stimuli were presented centrally, confirming the ORB. Importantly, the lateralized presentation reversed the bias with higher accuracy and shorter response times in the categorization of Asian than Caucasian faces. This reversed bias was significant for female and male faces, and it was observed when stimuli were presented in the left but not in the right visual field, revealing the crucial role of the right hemisphere in face processing. These results shed new light on the hemispheric abilities in the categorization of facial features, and they are compared to previous evidence of cerebral asymmetries for facial age, gender and identity, both in healthy participants and in neurological patients.

Keywords: Cerebral hemispheres; Own-Race Bias (ORB); facial ethnicity categorization; hemispheric asymmetries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asian People
  • Bias
  • Cerebrum / physiology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • White People
  • Young Adult