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19-10-2020 | Original Article

Training away face-type bias: perception and decisions about emotional expression in stereotypically Black faces

Psychological Research
Corey J. Bohil, Heather M. Kleider-Offutt, Clay Killingsworth, Ashley M. Meacham
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Prior research indicates that stereotypical Black faces (e.g., wide nose, full lips) are perceived negatively relative to non-stereotypical faces (face-type bias). The current study investigated whether stereotypical faces may bias the interpretation of a neutral facial expression to seem threatening. Moreover, could biased responses be trained away with feedback? In two experiments, stimuli (face images) were presented in a speeded identification task that included corrective feedback, and participants indicated whether the face stimuli were stereotypical or not and threatening or not. Stimuli were pre-rated by face-type (stereotypical, non-stereotypical) and expression (neutral, threatening). Computational modeling based on General Recognition Theory indicated that training increased perceptual discriminability between all the faces. By the end of training (in both experiments), discriminability for emotional expression was slightly higher for stereotypical faces. Model parameters (for both experiments) also showed that, early in training, decision boundaries were more biased toward the threatening response for stereotypical faces relative to non-stereotypical faces. The results suggest that decision bias may be malleable with training.

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