South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
COETZEE, V.; GREEFF, J.M.; BARRETT, L. and HENZI, S.P.. Facial-based ethnic recognition: insights from two closely related but ethnically distinct groups. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2009, vol.105, n.11-12, pp.464-466. ISSN 1996-7489.
Previous studies on facial recognition have considered widely separated populations, both geographically and culturally, making it hard to disentangle effects of familiarity with an ability to identify ethnic groups per se. We used data from a highly intermixed population of African peoples from South Africa to test whether individuals from nine different ethnic groups could correctly differentiate between facial images of two of these, the Tswana and Pedi. Individuals could not assign ethnicity better than expected by chance, and there was no significant difference between genders in accuracy of assignment. Interestingly, we observed a trend that individuals of mixed ethnic origin were better at assigning ethnicity to Pedi and Tswanas, than individuals from less mixed backgrounds. This result supports the hypothesis that ethnic recognition is based on the visual expertise gained with exposure to different ethnic groups.
Keywords : faces; ethnicity; facial recognition; exposure; crosscultural studies.