One of the most replicable findings reported in the social psychological literature is the cross-race memory effect. We argue this effect derives from higher-order interactions among social cues that determine the perceived relevance of a face to an observer. The current research tested this hypothesis by examining the combined influences of eye gaze direction and race on face memory. The physical subtlety of eye gaze belies its powerful influence on social perception, and in this case helps specify the relevance of same- versus other-race faces. We found that only in faces making direct eye contact-not those displaying averted eye gaze-was the cross-race memory effect evident. Likewise, only in same-race faces did direct relative to averted-gaze enhance face memory. These findings have implications for our general understanding of the combinatorial nature of social perception and help clarify the underlying cause of the cross-race memory effect.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science