Intercultural competence and customer facial recognition

Geraldine Rosa Henderson, Tracy Rank-Christman, Tiffany Barnett White, Kimberly Dillon Grantham, Amy L. Ostrom, John G. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Intercultural competence has been found to be increasingly important. The purpose of this paper is to understand how intercultural competence impacts service providers’ ability to recognition faces of both black and white consumers. Design/methodology/approach: Two experiments were administered to understand how intercultural competence impacts recognition of black and white consumer faces. Findings: The authors find that the more intercultural competence that respondents report with blacks, the better they are at distinguishing between black regular customers and black new shoppers in an experiment. The authors find no impact of intercultural competence on the ability of respondents to differentiate between white consumers. These findings hold for respondents in the USA and South Africa. Research limitations/implications: One limitation of this research is that the studies were conducted in a controlled lab setting. Thus, one could imagine additional noise from a true consumer setting might increase the effects of these results. Another limitation is the focus on only black and white consumer faces. In this paper, the authors focused on these two races, specifically to keep the factorial design as simplified as possible. Originality/value: The implications of this research are important given that the ability of employees’ recognizing customer faces can affect customers’ day-to-day interactions in the marketplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-580
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 10 2018


  • Contact hypothesis
  • Facial recognition
  • Intercultural competence
  • Other-race effect
  • Race
  • Signal detection theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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