Levels of Processing and Memory Awareness when Recognising Own-race versus Other-race Faces: Implications for Eye-witness Memory*

Dr Ira Konstantinou, Associate Professor of Psychology


The notion that memory has different components is one that researchers have been investigating for over thirty years. The focus has mainly been on testing theoretical accounts regarding the relationship between conscious and unconscious influences on memory performance and the relationship between memory systems and conscious awareness in memory.

Explicit and implicit memory tests have been used to investigate contributions of conscious and unconscious processes to memory performance; stemming from this research the process dissociation framework has focused on defining the relationship between those processes during retrieval.

Finally, research based on the remember/know paradigm has focused on investigating states of awareness directly by using the participants’ subjective reports of conscious experience during retrieval.

The study presented here utilised the remember/know paradigm to inform the discussion on the Cross-Race Bias (CR B) by investigating levels-of-processing effects in recognition memory for same-versus other-race faces. The present experiment suggests that the rates of false identifications and thus false convictions may be higher for other- than own-race faces. It is proposed then that additional care should be taken when dealing with cross-race identifications, as they are more prone to the pitfalls of eyewitness identification processes.

Further research is required to investigate the contexts in which those false identifications are more likely to occur, especially under negative emotional conditions.

Dr Ira Konstantinou is a specialist in the cognitive processes of memory and awareness. Her recent research investigates the cognitive processes that mediate intergroup bias and conflict by using a memory paradigm instead of the conventional social psychology approaches. In her most recent publication she looked at race bias in recognition memory and how this bias disadvantages Black people leading to false convictions when a White eyewitness is asked to identify the perpetrator of a crime. The forthcoming paper will discuss the implications of these processes on group conflict, negotiations between conflict groups, and the understanding of the other group’s misfortunes. She is also researching ways to implement evidence-based teaching approaches to critical thinking in undergraduates.


* The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, 7, 1 (2013): 39–50.

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