The Cross-Race Effect
The Cross-Race Effect (CRE) is the phenomenon that people are better at recognizing own-race members more accurately than other-race members. Unfortunately, when individuals incorrectly identify members of other races, they often do so with high levels of confidence. This occurrence is particularly problematic in criminal cases because eye-witness misidentification is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions, especially when the defendant is a member of a different race than the eye-witness. There is currently no agreement in the literature regarding the cause of the CRE. Many psychologists suggest that a lack of interracial contact or interaction is the cause of the CRE while other psychologists indicate that the CRE occurs at the stage of encoding and is the result of own-race perceptual expertise. Some psychologists also suggest that cognitive disregard and social-categorization models are responsible for the CRE as people frequently recognize others as in-group members (e.g. own-race members) or out-group members (e.g. other-race members). Especially in cases of identification, it is important to understand the causes of the CRE to avoid wrongful incarceration and further research should be done in the field to further understand the CRE.