The field of psychology has produced a great deal of knowledge about the way in which eyewitness memory operates in the adult population, and several findings have remained constant over many years. One of these is the "Other-race effect" (ORE), which states that people are better able to identify and recognize people of their own race as opposed to those of other, possibly less familiar, races. However, hardly any research has examined the ORE in children. Further, even that small body of existing research has produced inconsistent results.
The current study was designed to assess the accuracy of children of various ages, as well as a comparison group of college students, in recognition of adult faces. It extends the earlier work with the ORE in children and utilizes three measures of accuracy—hits, false alarms, and A’ (a measure of response accuracy involving both hits and false alarms), as well as B"D, a measure of response bias. Participants included Black and White individuals in 4 grade levels (2nd, 6th, 10th, and college). College participants were recruited from an introductory psychology class, while the younger children were students from a K-12 research school associated with the University. Data were collected from a total of 151 participants, consisting of 79 White students and 72 Black students. Participants completed a standard recognition paradigm in which they viewed a series of White and Black faces. After a short break they were shown a larger series of faces and asked to decide whether they had seen those faces earlier and to rate their confidence in their response. Participants at higher grade levels were more accurate at identifying faces, but there was also an overall effect for greater accuracy with White faces. This resulted in an ORE for White participants only, and this effect remained relatively stable across grade levels. Non-college Black participants responded similarly to White participants in their accuracy rates. There was a small correlation between accuracy and confidence for both children and adults. Adults' other-race social experiences were associated with an increase in overall accuracy, but this did not hold true for children. In addition, for both children and adults, an increase in other-race social experiences was related to a decrease in own-race accuracy. Explanations for these findings were discussed, and suggestions were made regarding the direction of future research.