ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (3): 270-282.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00270

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 The effect of perceptual load on the multiple social categories processing of faces

 WANG Guan; ZHOU Pei; ZHANG Kaili; WANG Pei   

  1.  (Department of Psychology, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China)
  • Received:2017-02-20 Published:2018-03-25 Online:2018-01-31
  • Contact: WANG Pei, E-mail: E-mail:E-mail:
  • Supported by:

Abstract:  Perceptual load theory claims that the information processing stream of task-irrelevant stimuli would fade away along with the increase of load levels. This view has been confirmed when words, objects, celebrities and animal faces were regarded as task-irrelevant stimuli. But there is still a debate as to whether perceptual load levels could affect the processing of race and gender which belong to primary social categories of human faces. For this purpose, a new name judgement task was developed based on the flanker paradigm. Each trial consisted of the following sequence of events, a fixation cross that was present for 500 ms was followed by a vertically arranged names matrix in the center of screen, and the interfering face randomly appeared on the left or the right side of the screen simultaneously. The participants were asked to judge the race or gender of the only real name presented in each matrix. This stimulus did not disappear until the participants pressed a task key. The inter-trial interval (ITI) was 1000 ms long. Current study consisted of two experiments. Experiment 1 explored the interference effect of face on the race judgement of the real name at different load levels. Twenty-six undergraduate students were recruited in experiment 1. The results indicated that the higher the perceptual load level was, the longer of RT was. Moreover, RT of congruence condition, in which the race of real name is identical with that of adjacent face, was always shorter than that of incongruence condition. The results indicated that the race judgment of real names was always affected by the image of face. Experiment 2a-a conceptual replication-investigated the interference effect of the face on the gender judgement of real name at different load levels. We recruited thirty-three undergraduate students as participants and the results showed that the interference effect of face on the gender judgement of real name disappeared and there was no significant difference on RT between the congruence and the incongruence conditions at the high load levels. Experiment 2b (N = 26)—a conceptual extension—investigated the interference effect of the face on Chinese names with the neutral feature. The results indicated that at the low load levels, the gender judgment of neutral names was affected by image of face. However, at the high load levels, the accuracy rate of judging the gender of neutral name was at a random level. These results suggested that the attention system might have a bottom-up obligatory processing characteristic for racial information, whereas there was a top-down processing characteristic with a certain degree of flexibility on gender information which was modulated by the attention resource. In conclusion, results from the current study reveals that the perceptual load theory has certain limitations to explain face primary social categories processing. It is also indirectly proved that culture and theory of evolution have a profound effect on social categories processing of human.

Key words: perceptual load, race, gender, obligatory processing, flexible processing

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