Predominance of eyes and surface information for face race categorization

Isabelle Bülthoff, Wonmo Jung, Regine G.M. Armann, Christian Wallraven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Faces can be categorized in various ways, for example as male or female or as belonging to a specific biogeographic ancestry (race). Here we tested the importance of the main facial features for race perception. We exchanged inner facial features (eyes, mouth or nose), face contour (everything but those) or texture (surface information) between Asian and Caucasian faces. Features were exchanged one at a time, creating for each Asian/Caucasian face pair ten facial variations of the original face pair. German and Korean participants performed a race classification task on all faces presented in random order. The results show that eyes and texture are major determinants of perceived biogeographic ancestry for both groups of participants and for both face types. Inserting these features in a face of another race changed its perceived biogeographic ancestry. Contour, nose and mouth, in that order, had decreasing and much weaker influence on race perception for both participant groups. Exchanging those features did not induce a change of perceived biogeographic ancestry. In our study, all manipulated features were imbedded in natural looking faces, which were shown in an off-frontal view. Our findings confirm and extend previous studies investigating the importance of various facial features for race perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1927
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our great thanks to Sarah Shrimpton, Carolina Barros y Vidor and Karin Bierig in Germany for their help in designing the stimuli and running some of the tests. This study was supported by the Max Planck Society and by the WCU (World Class University) program and the Brain Korea 21 PLUS Program, both funded by the Ministry of Education through the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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