ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2008) — If Barack Obama had taken his mother’s surname and kept his childhood nickname, American voters might literally see “Barry Dunham” as a quite different presidential candidate, a new study suggests. A name significantly changes our perception of someone’s face and race, according to research in the journal, Perception.
Participants in the study – titled Barack Obama or Barry Dunham? – rated multi-racial faces with European names as looking significantly “more European” than exactly the same multi-racial faces when given Asian names.
“The study reveals how socially derived expectations and stereotypes can influence face perception,” says co-author and UNSW PhD student, Kirin Hilliar. “The result is consistent with other research findings suggesting that once people categorise a face into a racial group, they look for features consistent with that categorization.”
The article also mentions related psychology research on race, perception, and bias.