Mapping the impact of culture and race in visual processing

Professor Roberto Caldara
Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland


Human beings living in different geographical locations can be categorized by culture and race. Historically, it has long been presumed that across cultures all humans perceive the world essentially in a comparable manner, viewing objects and attending to salient information in similar ways. Recently, however, our work and a growing body of literature have disputed this notion by highlighting fundamental differences in perception between people from Western and Eastern (China, Korea and Japan) cultures. Such perceptual biases occur even for the biologically relevant face recognition and the decoding of facial expressions of emotion tasks. Race instead is a universal, socially constructed concept used to categorize humans originating from different geographical locations by salient physiognomic variations (i.e., skin tone, eye shape, etc.). I will then present a series of studies showing a very early extraction of race information from faces and the impact of this visual categorization on face processing.

I will discuss in turn the role of those two factors shaping visual cognition, as well as integrate data from other experiments that feed these debated fields.

Keynote Speaker Biography

Professor Roberto Caldara obtained PhD in Psychology at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), on the interdisciplinary study of the other-race effect for faces (2002). During his PhD, he has had the opportunity to investigate diverse topics on visual cognition and motor processing, by means of brain imaging techniques (EEG and fMRI), neuronal network simulations, brain-damaged patients and behavioural paradigms. He was before one of the Principal Investigators of the Centre for Cognitive NeuroImaging (CCNi) of the School of Psychology at the University of Glasgow. Since his PhD, he expanded his research interests, while keeping the interdisciplinary investigation of brain-behaviour interactions on the study of human cognition as a key feature of my research. He very recently become fascinated by the study of eye movements and developed with my collaborators experimental techniques and a novel method to analyse eye movement data: iMap He has always been fascinated by human evolution and human diversity. In the past decade scientists have reported systematic differences in visual cognition between Westerners (i.e., West Europeans and North Americans) and Far Easterners (i.e., Chinese, Japanese and Koreans), questioning the assumption of universality of many cognitive processes. Their current work feeds this ongoing debate and they have a major research interest in mapping the role of culture in visual and social cognition.

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