Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Joshua Correll

Second Advisor

Christopher Loersch

Third Advisor

Sara Jamieson


The cross-race recognition deficit (CRD) is a well-studied phenomenon that describes how people looking at faces of a racial out-group have a more difficult time at recognizing and identifying those faces, as compared to looking at faces of their own race. Two main theories, the social cognitive theory and the perceptual learning hypothesis, have been offered as potential explanations for this deficit. Previous research on the perceptual learning hypothesis has been unable to be assessed without the influence of social cognitive factors, like differences in participant motivation and attention. To more effectively test the perceptual learning hypothesis exclusively, the current study used computer software to morph Black and White faces so that they appeared as the opposite race, resulting in faces that were either originally White or Black and either apparently White or Black. This allowed the perceptual features of the faces to vary while the race was apparently constant, eliminating differences from social bias. Participants completed a face recognition task, which allowed us to gauge White participants’ sensitivity to faces that were originally White (same-race) or Black (cross-race), while holding constant the apparent race of the face. Participants with minimal cross-race contact showed an inability to differentiate faces that were originally Black; participants who had more self-reported contact with Black people did significantly better at recognizing originally Black faces, regardless of whether they appeared as Black or White.