Who looks the same?

Everyone, in a sense. This is the effect one observes when one sees individuals of an ethnicity one is not familiar with, or has had little contact or experience with. It is observable in much of the Caucasian world, where there is a stereotype that all asian people look alike. Similarly, the opposite stereotype is perfectly possible.

How does it work?

The idea of race is not scientific in itself, because there are no known definite borderlines between the races. People can be mixed and matched, and progressive variances appear if you look at wide demographics across Eurasia.

The brain has the ability to differentiate faces, by seeing several examples of something and picking out the differences between individual examples. It can do this with anything, be it hairstyles, cars, airplanes, or anything.

For any particular ethnicity, there are certain variances in facial qualities from person to person, and the set of variables that define facial appearance are not definite, but fall within a certain known approximation. When one encounters a different ethnicity, the variables are again indefinite, but they are a different set nonetheless. The brain, upon examining the old set of variables from person to person, finds little or none of these variances among the people, and declares that they all look alike. However, after spending a substantial amount of time around this new ethnicity, it learns what variances there are to be had with these people, and it then learns the truth that they do not actually look the same. It's all a question of familiarity.

OK, Show me an example.

Refer to the example of Dyske Suematsu, who came to America as a teenager, and went to the wrong class because he could not tell his Caucasian teachers apart:


If you want the other example, where Caucasian people cannot tell Asian people apart, just look at the media. In The Simpsons, nearly every Asian person that appears in the show looks the same. Of course they do. They're drawn the same because someone decided that they had no observable distinguished facial features.

What to make of all this?

You make the call on this one. I say that's why the All-Look-Same Effect occurs today, and that it is going to keep happening. Oh well.

Thanks to spiregrain, who noted that the animation cels for The Simpsons are coloured in Korea, not drawn, enabling me to withdraw from the above a rather clumsy "nevermind" statement.
If anyone can suggest to me an appropriate name for the effect, better than All-Look-Same Effect, please do so.