Arbitrary Category Labels Can Change Similarity Judgments of Human Faces


In two experiments, participants were presented with a triad of morphed White and Hispanic faces paired with pseudoword labels. The meanings of these labels were manipulated to represent categorical information about the face. Labels were said to represent either the person’s belief, the food s/he ate, the disease s/he had, or the person’s last name. The results indicated that categorical information affects our judgments of faces. Information categories such as belief, food, and diseases were particularly strong in modifying the participants’ similarity judgment of faces, whereas information characterized with last names of faces were least powerful. Previous research focuses on race face perception being affected primarily by racial indicators or racial information. Our results provide that how we perceptually analyze faces is not confined to obvious racial cues, but by non-racial semantic information as well, suggesting that category-relevant information by itself provides a strong basis for inductive generalization.

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