Recent evidence suggests stronger holistic processing for own-race faces may underlie
the own-race advantage in face memory. In previous studies Caucasian participants have
demonstrated larger holistic processing effects for Caucasian over Asian faces. However,
Asian participants have consistently shown similar sized effects for both Asian and Cau-
casian faces. We investigated two proposed explanations for the holistic processing of
other-race faces by Asian participants: (1) greater other-race exposure, (2) a general global
processing bias. Holistic processing was tested using the part-whole task. Participants
were living in predominantly own-race environments and other-race contact was evalu-
ated. Despite reporting significantly greater contact with own-race than other-race people,
Chinese participants displayed strong holistic processing for both Asian and Caucasian
upright faces. In addition, Chinese participants showed no evidence of holistic processing
for inverted faces arguing against a general global processing bias explanation. Caucasian
participants, in line with previous studies, displayed stronger holistic processing for Cau-
casian than Asian upright faces. For inverted faces there were no race-of-face differences.
These results are used to suggest that Asians may make more general use of face-specific
mechanisms than Caucasians.
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