ADAPTATION TO RACIAL CONTENT OF EMERGENT RACE FACES: GRADIENT SHIFT OR PEAK SHIFT?

  • Otto MacLin
  • Kim MacLin
  • Dwight Peterson

Abstract

At the heart of stereotypes, attitudes, and misidentifications involving race is the question ofhow faces are initially categorized according to race. We examined racial classification usinga continuum of morphed faces resulting from African-American and Caucasian 'parent' faceswhereas an emergent Hispanic race is perceived at the center of the continuum. Using themethod of adaptation, observers adapted to either a novel African-American or a Caucasianface prior to classifying race. A peak shift was found similar to stimulus discriminationtraining in animal subjects (Hanson, 1959). These results were unexpected as it has beencommonly thought that adaptation to faces results in a gradient shift (MacLin & Webster,2001), and the fact that no discrimination training was used to acquire the peak shift. Resultsare discussed in terms of Helson's (1964) adaptation level theory. The authors conclude thatpsychophysics can be effectively used to answer social psychological questions.
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