Not So Black and White: Memory for Ambiguous Group Members

Kristin Pauker, Max Weisbuch, Nalini Ambady, Samuel R. Sommers, Reginald B. Adams, Zorana Ivcevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Exponential increases in multiracial identities, expected over the next century, create a conundrum for perceivers accustomed to classifying people as their own- or other-race. The current research examines how perceivers resolve this dilemma with regard to the own-race bias. The authors hypothesized that perceivers are not motivated to include ambiguous-race individuals in the in-group and therefore have some difficulty remembering these individuals. Both racially ambiguous and other-race faces were misremembered more often than own-race faces (Study 1), though memory for ambiguous faces was improved among perceivers motivated to include biracial individuals in the in-group (Study 2). Racial labels assigned to racially ambiguous faces determined memory for these faces, suggesting that uncertainty provides the motivational context for discounting ambiguous faces in memory (Study 3). Finally, an inclusion motivation fostered cognitive associations between racially ambiguous faces and the in-group. Moreover, the extent to which perceivers associated racially ambiguous faces with the in-group predicted memory for ambiguous faces and accounted for the impact of motivation on memory (Study 4). Thus, memory for biracial individuals seems to involve a flexible person construal process shaped by motivational factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-810
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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