Reasoning motivated by prejudice as a determinant of top-down influences on the face-processing system: An unexplored channel leading to outgroup bias

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Garrido, Carlos Oswaldo
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 17, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Reginald B. Adams, Jr., Dissertation Advisor
  • Reginald B. Adams, Jr., Committee Chair
  • Stephanie A. Shields, Committee Member
  • Jose A. Soto, Committee Member
  • Mary Beth Oliver, Outside Member
  • top-down influences
  • face-processing
  • cross-group impressions
  • visual perception
  • prejudice
  • stereotyping
  • categorization
In the last two decades alone, hundreds of empirical reports support the notion that high level cognitive states (e.g., preconceptions, motivations, beliefs) influence the visual system to transform visual representations of novel stimuli. Surprisingly, only a scant number of such publications examine biased interpersonal impressions via top-down influences on the face-processing system. Yet, the human face is rich in subtle nuances (e.g., phenotypic dimensions, emotional expressions) that are susceptible to top-down influences triggered by perceiver goals. Through this dissertation, I argue that prejudice—characterized as motivation to draw physical and/or psychological separation from a target outgroup—promotes heightened attuning to outgroup facial cues. Ultimately, such heightened attuning results in exaggerated visual representations of outgroup faces in line with phenotypic stereotypes (i.e., Black faces perceived higher in Afrocentrism on the basis of anti-Black prejudice). I found strong support for my theoretical framework, which I call motived interpersonal perception theory, in the results of four studies. Essentially, I established a preliminary link between anti-Black prejudice and perceived Afrocentrism on Black faces. Moreover, I showed that manipulating prejudice resulted in heightened attuning to between racial group, but not within group, facial identity changes and that such attuning predicts highly Afrocentric mental representations of Blacks stored in memory. Collectively, my findings are the first to identify a previously unexplored channel leading to intergroup bias.