Individuals use a variety of cues to identify their own kin, regardless the fact that the family belongs to the same race as themselves, find researchers.
During the study, French and Senegalese participants were asked to match photos of parents with photos of their children.
Both groups were able to detect kinship with the same rate of success, whether they were looking at French parents and children or Senegalese parents and children.
The amount of exposure - i.e., how much or how little contact participants had with members of the other race - had no affect on the participants' ability to correctly match parents with their children.
Researchers from France's University of Montpelier and Japan's Nagoya Institute of Technology and Okinawa University, said that "the importance of exposure for recognizing faces is ... supported by a large number of studies showing an "other-race effect," which is defined as a greater capacity to recognize faces of one's own cultural group as compared to faces from other cultural groups."
"Our results suggest that exposure has a limited role in the ability to process facial resemblance in others, which contrasts with the way our brains process facial recognition," said lead investigator Alexandra Alvergne.
The team concluded that facial recognition and the detection of facial resemblance are probably not processed in the same way.
They believe their findings will be instrumental in other studies.
"Brain-imagery studies could investigate whether processing facial resemblance among others is a by-product of the processing of facial resemblance to oneself," Alvergne said.
It would also be very interesting to explore whether other close-related species share this ability and whether it is linked to any reproductive benefit," she added.
The study is published in the Journal of Vision.