“Oh, you [insert nationality here] all look the same to me…”

The latest in my ‘Learn Something New Every Day’ series – taken from The Great Courses’ Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works (Lecture 28: Human Memory and Eye-witness Accounts)

No, we’re not all racist jerks. You can blame this one on a phenomena called Cross Racial Identification Bias.

Studies have shown that humans are hard-wired to be able to more easily identify people of the same race as themselves. Therefore, it is a common feature of all human brains to be less able to identify the distinctions between faces of other races. It is a phenomenon found even in multicultural settings and in people who actively try and be observant.

This makes a certain amount of evolutionary sense, I guess, given how important ‘social kinship’ is to us as a species. We’d want to recognise, befriend and remember others from our tribe/region and less so strangers from far away places.