Evaluating the independence of age, sex, and race in judgment of faces

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6 Scopus citations


Extracting the dimensions of age, sex, race from faces is fundamental for many aspects of social cognition such as person construal, impression formation, and social interaction. While cognitive researchers consider these dimensions to be independent in processing, social psychology researchers have recently demonstrated the emergence of strong interactive patterns between these categories, especially, when social biases are involved. The current study harnessed the classic Garner's speeded classification task (Garner, 1974) and Stroop task (1935) to evaluate the level of independence between age, sex, and race in a systematic and exhaustive fashion, with an eye on the potential influence of social biases. The degree of separability was evaluated in a pairwise fashion, with each experiment testing one pair. In Experiment 1a and 1b, sex and race were tested with strong (Experiment 1b) or weak (Experiment 1a) social bias. Experiment 2 was set to assess the separability of sex and race. And Experiment 3 was aimed at evaluating the separability of age and sex. The results revealed that neither of the pairs of dimensions produced Garner interferences (and are therefore separable dimensions). However, when strong social bias was present, the dimensions did produce redundancy gains and Stroop-like effects, which reflected the presence of abiding social biases. A holistic-to-analytic model is presented to account for these results, according to which, the dimensions are initially processed as integral dimensions, but then become gradually separable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104333
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Face recognition
  • Garner task
  • Person construal


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