Social groups prioritize selective attention to faces: How social identity shapes distractor interference
© 2016 Park et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Human faces automatically attract visual attention and this process appears to be guided by social group memberships. In two experiments, we examined how social groups guide selective attention toward in-group and out-group faces. Black and White participants detected a target letter among letter strings superimposed on faces (Experiment 1). White participants were less accurate on trials with racial out-group (Black) compared to in-group (White) distractor faces. Likewise, Black participants were less accurate on trials with racial out-group (White) compared to in-group (Black) distractor faces. However, this pattern of out-group bias was only evident under high perceptual load-when the task was visually difficult. To examine the malleability of this pattern of racial bias, a separate sample of participants were assigned to mixed-race minimal groups (Experiment 2). Participants assigned to groups were less accurate on trials with their minimal in-group members compared to minimal out-group distractor faces, regardless of race. Again, this pattern of out-group bias was only evident under high perceptual load. Taken together, these results suggest that social identity guides selective attention toward motivationally relevant social groups-shifting from out-group bias in the domain of race to in-group bias in the domain of minimal groups-when perceptual resources are scarce.
Park, G; Van Bavel, JJ; Hill, LBK; Williams, DWP; Thayer, JF
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