The human visual system is very fast and efficient at extracting socially relevant information from faces. Visual studies employing foveated faces have consistently reported faster categorization by race response times for other-race compared with same-race faces. However, in everyday life we typically encounter faces outside the foveated visual field. In study 1, we explored whether and how race is categorized extrafoveally in same and other-race faces normalized for low-level properties by tracking eye movements of Western Caucasian and East Asian observers in a saccadic response task. The results show that not only are people sensitive to race in faces presented outside of central vision, but the speed advantage in categorizing other-race faces occurs astonishingly quickly in as little as 200 ms. Critically, this visual categorization process was approximately 300 ms faster than the typical button press responses on centrally presented foveated faces. Study 2 investigated the genesis of the extrafoveal saccadic response speed advantage by comparing the influences of the response modality (button presses and saccadic responses), as well as the potential contribution of the impoverished low-spatial frequency spectrum characterizing extrafoveal visual information processing. Button press race categorization was not significantly faster with reconstructed retinal-filtered low spatial frequency faces, regardless of the visual field presentation. The speed of race categorization was significantly boosted only by extrafoveal saccades and not centrally foveated faces. Race is a potent, rapid, and effective visual signal transmitted by faces used for the categorization of ingroup/outgroup members. This fast universal visual categorization can occur outside central vision, igniting a cascade of social processes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems