Person Categorization


The efficient analysis and representation of person-related information is one of the most challenging and important tasks of human social perception. In particular, efficient processing is achieved by person categorisation (e.g. old vs. young, male vs. female, own vs. other eth-nic group etc.). However, it remains controversial whether relevant categories (and if necessary the associated stereotypical behaviour) are activated automatically during perception. Alternatively, category activation may be determined by controlling factors, such as attention, processing strategies or goals. The current project investigates this prominent question by means of priming, while event-related potentials (ERP) are recorded. Various ERP components (e.g. N170, N250r, N400) are analysed to examine perceptual and semantic categorisation processes for faces. In particular, we will examine the extent to which these priming effects are modulated by selective attention as well as by the categorisation task at hand. Further neuroscientific studies investigate the recently reported ‘own age bias’, or ‘other age effect’ – the observation that faces belonging to other age groups than the viewer’s group are recognized less effectively. Finally, the role of face familiarisation for categorisation will be examined. The project aims at an enhanced understanding of the cognitive and neural bases of person perception and categorisation.

Selected Relevant Publications

Kloth, N., Damm, M., Schweinberger, S.R., & Wiese, H. (2015). Aging affects sex categorization of male and female faces in opposite ways. Acta Psychologica, 158, 78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.actapsy.2015.04.005. (Link to PDF)

Schweinberger, S.R., Zäske, R., Walther, C., Golle, J., Kovács, G., & Wiese, H. (2010). Young without Plastic Surgery: Perceptual adaptation to the age of female and male faces. Vision Research, 50, 2570-2576.

Stahl, J., Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2010). Learning task affects ERP-correlates of the Own-Race Bias,  but not Recognition Memory Performance. Neuropsychologia, 48,2027-2040.

Stahl, J., Wiese, H., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2008). Expertise and own-race bias in face processing: An Event-related potential study. NeuroReport, 19, 583-587.

Wiese, H., Kloth, N., Güllmar, D., Reichenbach, J.R., & Schweinberger, S.R. (2012). Perceiving age and gender in unfamiliar faces: An fMRI study on face categorization.Brain and Cognition, 78, 163-168.

Wiese H, Schweinberger SR, Hansen K (2008). The age of the beholder: ERP evidence of an own-age bias in face memory. Neuropsychologia, 46, 2973-2985.

Wiese, H., Schweinberger, S.R., & Neumann, M.F. (2008). Perceiving age and gender in unfamiliar faces: Brain potential evidence for implicit and explicit person categorization. Psychophysiology, 45, 603-615.

Wiese, H., Schweinberger, S.R., Neumann, M.F. (2007). Perceiving age and gender in unfamiliar faces: Event-related potential evidence for automatic category activation.Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York, 5-8 May, 2007.

Wiese, H., Stahl, J. & Schweinberger, S.R. (2009). Configural processing of other-race faces is delayed but not decreased. Biological Psychology, 81, 103-109.

Wolff, N., Kempter, K., Schweinberger, S.R., & Wiese, H. (in press). What drives social in-group biases in face recognition memory? ERP evidence from the own-gender bias.Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.


DFG-Projekt Schw 511/8-1