Human face-selective cortex does not distinguish between members of a racial outgroup

Niv Reggev, Kirstan Brodie, Mina Cikara, Jason P. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


People often fail to individuate members of social outgroups, a phenomenon known as the outgroup homogeneity effect. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) repetition suppression to investigate the neural representation underlying this effect. In a preregistered study, White human perceivers (N = 29) responded to pairs of faces depicting White or Black targets. In each pair, the second face depicted either the same target as the first face, a different target from the same race, or a scrambled face outline. We localized face-selective neural regions via an independent task, and demonstrated that neural activity in the fusiform face area (FFA) distinguished different faces only when targets belonged to the perceivers’ racial ingroup (White). By contrast, face-selective cortex did not discriminate between other-race individuals. Moreover, across two studies (total N = 67) perceivers were slower to discriminate between different outgroup members and remembered them to a lesser extent. Together, these results suggest that the outgroup homogeneity effect arises when early-to-mid-level visual processing results in an erroneous overlap of representations of outgroup members.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENEURO.0431-19.2020
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Cross-race
  • FFA
  • FMRI
  • Faces
  • Outgroup homogeneity
  • Repetition suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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