Non-Threatening Other-Race Faces Capture Visual Attention: Evidence from a Dot-Probe Task

Shahd Al-Janabi, Colin MacLeod, Gillian Rhodes

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Visual attentional biases towards other-race faces have been attributed to the perceived threat value of such faces. It is possible, however, that they reflect the relative visual novelty of other-race faces. Here we demonstrate an attentional bias to other-race faces in the absence of perceived threat. White participants rated female East Asian faces as no more threatening than female own-race faces. Nevertheless, using a new dot-probe paradigm that can distinguish attentional capture and hold effects, we found that these other-race faces selectively captured visual attention. Importantly, this demonstration challenges previous interpretations of attentional biases to other-race faces as threat responses. Future studies will need to determine whether perceived threat increases attentional biases to other-race faces, beyond the levels seen here.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46119
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


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