Cultural modulation effects on the self-face advantage: Do Caucasians find their own faces faster than Chinese?

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2022 Dec 15;17470218221142158. doi: 10.1177/17470218221142158. Online ahead of print.


The self-face advantage (SFA) is reflected through a faster recognition of a self-face compared with familiar and unfamiliar faces. Nevertheless, as Westerners and East Asians tend to present differences in self-concept styles, it is possible that the SFA is modulated by culture. The present study explored this possibility using a visual search task. British Caucasians and Malaysian Chinese participants were asked to search for frontal view images of self, friend, and unfamiliar faces among an array of unfamiliar faces. Regardless of race, participants were more accurate and faster in searching for the own face and friend's face compared with an unfamiliar face, with no differences in the search between the own and friend's face, and these findings could not be accounted by the cultural differences in self-concept (i.e., operationalised by scores from the Independent and Interdependent Self-Concept Scale and the Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism Scale). Altogether our results suggest that culture does not modulate the SFA and that this effect is better explained by a familiar face advantage.

Keywords: Self-face advantage; culture; self-concept; visual search.