Self-pacing study of faces of different races: metacognitive control over study does not eliminate the cross-race recognition effect

Jonathan G. Tullis, Aaron S. Benjamin, Xiping Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


People often recognize same-race faces better than other-race faces. This cross-race effect (CRE) has been proposed to arise in part because learners devote fewer cognitive resources to encode faces of social out-groups. In three experiments, we evaluated whether learners’ other-race mnemonic deficits are due to “cognitive disregard” during study and whether this disregard is under metacognitive control. Learners studied each face either for as long as they wanted (the self-paced condition) or for the average time taken by a self-paced learner (the fixed-rate condition). Self-paced learners allocated equal amounts of study time to same-race and other-race faces, and having control over study time did not change the size of the CRE. In the second and third experiments, both self-paced and fixed-rate learners were given instructions to “individuate” other-race faces. Individuation instructions caused self-paced learners to allocate more study time to other-race faces, but this did not significantly reduce the size of the CRE, even for learners who reported extensive contact with other races. We propose that the differential processing that people apply to faces of different races and the subsequent other-race mnemonic deficit are not due to learners’ strategic cognitive disregard of other-race faces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-875
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2014
Externally publishedYes



  • Cross-race effect
  • Face recognition
  • Metamemory
  • Own-race bias
  • Self-pacing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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