Cognitive Anxiety and Race: Does Anxiety at Encoding Affect Face Memory for Other-Race Individuals?

Tindall, I. (Murdoch University), Curtis, G. (Murdoch University), Locke, V. (Murdoch University)

Individuals whilst anxious or viewing another race face have reduced recognition accuracy. Limited research, however, has considered whether anxiety and race interact to exacerbate these deficits. The present study (N=55, MAge: 26.38) sought to examine this through exposing participants to a cognitive anxiety stressor at encoding, whilst participants completed a face-recognition task. Other-race contact and individuating experience were also measured and entered as covariates. Results suggest that when anxious, participants are worse at recognising faces belonging to their own-race and are slightly better at recognising faces of another race, when compared to non-anxious controls. Collapsed across conditions, individuals were better at recognising own-race faces. When covariates were entered, the influence of race disappeared. Despite these covariates, the interaction between anxiety and race remained significant. Recognition accuracy for other-race individuals is moderated by other-race contact and experience. However, these covariates do not reduce the relationship between anxiety and race. These results suggest that an anxious witness, when initially seeing a perpetrator, will have reduced subsequent identification of a culprit belonging to the same race. This finding is contrary to expectation and if not properly understood can greatly increase the chance of misidentification during eyewitness identification.

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Person Perception and Intergroup Processes