Outgroup faces hamper word recognition

  • Simone Sulpizio
  • Eduardo NavarreteEmail author
Original Article


The present study explores socio-cultural priming in native-language processing. Caucasian Italian native speakers completed a written lexical decision task. Written stimuli were preceded by either a prime “white” face (ingroup condition) or a prime “black” face (outgroup condition). Face priming effects were observed in three experiments using different stimuli. Participants were slower in categorizing words, but not non-words, when preceded by an outgroup face than by an ingroup face. Several psycholinguistic variables were manipulated to localize the levels of processing that are affected by socio-cultural prime. The lack of effect with non-word items excludes the possibility that the face priming effect arises at perceptual or attentive levels of processing. In addition, we observed that while the face priming effect does not interact with lexical dimensions, it does interact with a semantic dimension such as imageability. The results indicate that social categories extracted from faces may modulate lexico-semantic processing. Interestingly, such a modulation would occur in the context of a quick and automatic process like visual word recognition in a person’s native language.



We thank Giorgia Giovanardi and Daniela di Menza for their help in data collection and Caterina Suitner for her helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain clinical studies or patient data. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facoltà di PsicologiaUniversità Vita-Salute San RaffaeleMilanItaly
  2. 2.Centro di Neurolinguistica e PsicolinguisticaUniversità Vita-Salute San RaffaeleMilanItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della SocializzazioneUniversità di PadovaPaduaItaly

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