Research Letters

Facial-based ethnic recognition: insights from two closely related but ethnically distinct groups

V. Coetzee, J. M. Greeff, L. Barrett, S. P. Henzi
South African Journal of Science | Vol 105, No 11/12 | a127 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajs.v105i11/12.127 | © 2010 V. Coetzee, J. M. Greeff, L. Barrett, S. P. Henzi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 February 2010 | Published: 01 February 2010

About the author(s)

V. Coetzee, Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0001, South Africa. Present address:School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Mary’s Quad, South Street, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JP, Scotland., South Africa
J. M. Greeff, Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0001, South Africa., South Africa
L. Barrett, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada. Department of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa., South Africa
S. P. Henzi, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada. Department of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa., South Africa

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Abstract

Previous studies on facial recognition have considered widely separated populations, both geographically and culturally, making it hard to disentangle effects of familiarity with an ability to identify ethnic groups per se.We used data from a highly intermixed population of African peoples from South Africa to test whether individuals from nine different ethnic groups could correctly differentiate between facial images of two of these, the Tswana and Pedi. Individuals could not assign ethnicity better than expected by chance, and there was no significant difference between genders in accuracy of assignment. Interestingly, we observed a trend that individuals of mixed ethnic origin were better at assigning ethnicity to Pedi and Tswanas, than individuals from less mixed backgrounds. This result supports the hypothesis that ethnic recognition is based on the visual

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