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Soutenance de thèse : Pei Jun WOO

Thesis defence

On 6 May 2021

Face processing in a multiracial environment : differential experience in face recognition, face categorisation and kinship detection.

The ability to recognize and categorise different faces proficiently has social advantages. This thesis addresses two questions: 1) how differential experience affects the development of face processing, specifically in two areas: recognition and categorising of faces and 2) how differential experience affects the way children use phenotype cues in detecting kinship relation. Four studies were conducted: The effect of differential experience (EDE) in infants face recognition (Study 1); The EDE in children and adult face recognition (Study 2); The EDE on children categorisation of faces (Study 3) and the EDE on pre-schoolers detection of kinship relations among stranger faces (Study 4)In study 1, face recognition was compared between infants from a multiracial population (Malaysia) and infants from a monoracial population (UK). We investigated face recognition of 4 and 9 months old Chinese infants from Malaysia using female and male faces that are of infants own-race (Chinese), experienced other-race (Malay) and less experienced other-race (Caucasian White). 4-month-olds recognized Chinese female faces, while 9-month-olds recognized Chinese and Malaysian female faces. Infants did not recognize male faces. British infants, on the other hand, recognized the faces of women and men of their own type. It appears that for infants born and raised in a multiracial environment, there is a developmental shift from a female based own-race recognition advantage to a female based own and experienced other-race advantage that may relate to infants’ social and caregiving experiences.In study 2, the other race effect was investigated in Malaysian adults and children. In adults, with increasing exposure to multi-races over the years, Malaysian adults develop equal ability to recognise own and frequently exposed other-race faces. In children, development of own-race recognition advantage to high-frequency other-race recognition advantage begins to change in childhood. While it appears that certain exposure to other-race faces affects the ORE, the relationship between exposure and face recognition is inconsistent within the Malaysian children tested indicating the ORE is still malleable during childhood.In study 3, 7 and 9-year-old Malaysian children and adult’s categorization of (a) own-race, (b) high-frequency other-race and (c) low-frequency other-race faces were investigated. Whereas the other-race categorization advantage was found in the accuracy data of Malay adults, other aspects of performance were supportive of either the social categorization or perceptual expertise accounts and were dependent on the race (Malay vs. Chinese) or age (child vs. adult) of the participants. Of particular significance is the finding that Malaysian Chinese children and adults categorized own-race Chinese faces more rapidly than high-frequency other-race Malay faces. Thus the other-race categorization advantage seems to be more an advantage for racial categories of lesser experience regardless of whether these face categories are own-race or other-race.In study 4, we examined whether the ability to detect kinship in unrelated faces in preschool children was influenced by their exposure to different race faces. We compared pre-schoolers born and raised in a multiracial environment (Malaysia) and those raised in a monoracial environment (France). The multiracial environment did give an advantage in detection of kinship performance, pre-schoolers from mixed-race families were better in the kinship-matching task performance. The results suggest that perhaps a direct experience with mixed race families is a key for children to understand biological inheritance.Taken together, the results provide insights on the EDE in face recognition, categorisation and kinship detection.

Encadrants :
- Directeur de thèse : Olivier PASCALIS - (olivier[dot]pascalis[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr)
- Co-encadrant : Karine MAZENS - 0476825673 -

Keywords: development, face recognition, Malaysia

Read the thesis



On 6 May 2021


Université Malaisie - salariée

Submitted on 20 November 2023

Updated on 20 November 2023