From the moment you are born, the human face plays an important role in social interactions. Babies’ early perceptual experiences are crucial to the development of their face processing skills, with studies finding that newborns actually have a preference for face-like images over images that do not portray one at all. This attraction persists into childhood and later into adulthood, but does it occur differently for members of different groups? One aspect of face perception the Identity and Diversity Lab is particularly interested in is the “the other-race effect.” People remember faces from their racial ingroup better than their racial outgroup. So what sorts of motivations or experiences can alter this face perception bias for children and adults? 

Biracial Tween Boy in Leather Jacket

The ID Lab will study these questions with children and adults, examining perceptions of mixed-race or racially ambiguous faces and focusing specifically on what types of contexts or experiences affect how a person perceives and/or categorizes racially ambiguous faces. The lab also plans to examine the use of racially ambiguous individuals in the media and  how different types of biracial faces may be perceived differently. Future directions will examine perceptions of gender-ambiguous faces, as this population is becoming increasingly important to the study of diversity.



Albuja, A. F., Muñoz, M., Kinzler, K., Woodward, A., Gaither, S. E. (2023). Hypodescent or ingroup overexclusion?: Children’s and adults’ racial categorization of ambiguous black/white biracial faces. Developmental Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13450 

Levy, A., Nguyen, C., Slepian, M. L., Gaither, S., Pauker, K., & Dovidio, J. F. (2022). Categorizing a Face and Facing a Category: The Constructive Impacts of Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Racial Categorization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletinhttps://doi.org/10.1177/01461672221084537

Paul, M., Gaither, S.E., & Darity, W. (2021). About Face: Seeing Class and Race. Journal of Economic Issues. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/s3bcq

Gaither, S. E., Chen, C., Neal, S., & Chien, S. (2021). Children’s cross-cultural categorizations of racially ambiguous faces in Taiwan and the U.S. Journal of Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology. doi: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/ydazv

Gaither, S. E., Chen, J. M., Pauker, K., & Sommers, S. R. (2018). At face value: Psychological outcomes differ for real vs. computer-generated multiracial faces. Journal of Social Psychology. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2018.1538929

Gaither, S. E., & Toosi, N. R., Babbitt, L. G., & Sommers, S. R. (2018). Exposure to Biracial faces reduces colorblindness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-13. doi: 10.1177/0146167218778012

Chen, J. M., Pauker, K., Gaither, S. E., Hamilton, D. L., & Sherman, J. W. (2018). Black + White = Not White: A minority bias in categorizations of Black-White multiracials. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 78, 43-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2018.05.002

Gaither, S. E., Babbitt, L. G., & Sommers, S. R. (2018). Resolving racial ambiguity in social interactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 259-269. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2018.03.003

Gaither, S. E., Pauker, K., Slepian, M. L., & Sommers, S. R. (2016). Social belonging motivates categorization of racially-ambiguous faces. Social Cognition, 34, 97-118. doi: 10.1521/soco.2016.34.2.97

Chen, J. M, Moons, W., Gaither, S. E., Sherman, J., & Hamilton, D. (2014). Motivation to control prejudice predicts categorization of Multiracials. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 590-603. doi: 10.1177/0146167213520457

Gaither, S. E., Schultz, J. R., Pauker, K., Sommers, S. R., Maddox, K., & Ambady, N. (2013). Essentialist thinking predicts decrements in children’s memory for racially-ambiguous faces. Developmental Psychology, 50, 482-488. doi:10.1037/a0033493

Gaither, S. E., Pauker, K., Johnson, S. P. (2012). Biracial and monoracial infant own-race face perception: An Eye Tracking Study. Developmental Science, 15, 775-782. doi:1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01170.x