2022-07-12Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/26213
Neural sensitivity to faces is increased by immersion into a novel ethnic environment: Evidence from ERPs
Previous reports suggest that East-Asians may show larger face-elicited N170 components in the ERP as compared to Caucasian participants. Since the N170 can be modulated by perceptual expertise, such group differences may be accounted for by differential experience, for example, with logographic versus alphabetic scripts (script system hypothesis) or by exposure to abundant novel faces during the immersion into a new social and/or ethnic environment (social immersion hypothesis). We conducted experiments in Hong Kong and Berlin, recording ERPs in a series of one-back tasks, using same- and other-ethnicity face stimuli in upright and inverted orientation and doodle stimuli. In Hong Kong we tested local Chinese residents and foreign guest students who could not read the logographic script; in Berlin we tested German residents who could not read the logographic script and foreign Chinese visitors. In both experiments, we found significantly larger N170 amplitudes to faces, regardless of ethnicity, in the foreign than in the local groups. Moreover, this effect did not depend on stimulus orientation, suggesting that the N170 group differences do not reflect differences in configural visual processing. A group of short-term German residents in Berlin did not differ in N170 amplitude from long-term residents. Together, these findings indicate that the extensive confrontation with novel other-ethnicity faces during immersion in a foreign culture may enhance the neural response to faces, reflecting the short-term plasticity of the underlying neural system.
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