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Differentiating Faces of Different Races

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Differentiating Faces of Different Races

Debra Jacobs

Minority children go through school with teacher after teacher mixing them up with same-race peers and with classmates asking “Are you two sisters?” when two children share few similarities other than race and gender. My kids, who are Asian, experienced this time after time. Even teachers who knew them well would sometimes call them by another Asian student’s name or pass back a paper written by an Asian classmate.

The “other race effect” makes it difficult for us to distinguish individual faces of people of other races.* Surprisingly, this effect shows up very early - even 9 month old infants “recognize same-race faces but have difficulty recognizing other-race faces.” **

As annoying as the “other race effect” is for my kids and many others, it can be dangerous for teens and adults, when false identification can lead to jail time or worse.


Start working now on helping your child overcome this effect. Print two copies of the photo pairs, below, and cut them into cards. Play the “Same or Different?” game. Put two cards together and ask if it’s the same person or a different one. Talk about similarities and differences.


Sometimes show your child two identical photos; other times, put similar but not identical faces together. Occasionally match two very different photos.


If you do not have access to a printer, play the “Same or Different?” game by showing your child the photos on the computer.

 

* https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2011/aug/15/people-other-races-look-alike

**https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836385/