(Editor: Nancy Dess)
Which facial features lead to classification of a face as male or female?
The eye and brow region have been identified as particularly influential when viewing
a face straight on (Campbell, Benson, Wallace, Doesbergh, & Coleman, 1999). Specifically,
the vertical distance between the eye and the brow affect the gender classification of pictures
of faces directly facing the camera.
Children and adults often report that they base their
judgments of gender on features such as hair length or clothing. However, hair
length can be long or short on a man or a woman, and men and women do wear
similar types of clothing. Despite the potential for confusion, people reliably
categorize individuals in the absence of information about hair or clothing.
This study explores the role of facial features in cueing gender
In this study, participants view photographs of faces (hair
and neck covered) presented in three conditions: 1) full view - the full face
is visible, 2) eyes only - only the eye and brow region are visible, 3) mouth
only - only the mouth and chin regions are visible. Participants are asked to
identify the gender of each stimulus and to indicate their confidence in their
There are two independent variables:. facial
cues, with three levels (i.e., full face, eyes only, mouth only), and , gender,
with two levels (male faces, female faces). This design produces the six
different conditions defined by this 3 x 2 within-subject factorial design, 8
male and 8 female models appear with the full face view, eyes only view, and
mouth only view.
Participants identify whether the face is male
or female and rate their confidence in this evaluation. Thus, the dependent
variables are accuracy in identification of gender of faces, and confidence in
the accuracy of responses.
The data file includes the following variables for each participant, in this order: UserID; ClassID; participant gender, age, and hand preference; date of data collection; number of correctly classified faces followed by associated confidence rating for photos of female "eyes," female "mouth," female "full face," male "eyes," male "mouth," and male "full face."
An excerpt of the data is shown in Figure 1.
In this experiment, gender is treated as a dichotomous (either/or) variable: face gender (IV) is defined as either male or female, and face perception (DV) is measured as 'male' or 'female.' In many cultures, species and situations, gender often appears to function this way. For instance, when asked to check a box "M" for male or "F" for female on an application form, most people answer effortlessly. However, gender can be experienced, conceptualized, and operationally defined as consisting of more than two categories (e.g. male, female, intersexed) or as varying along one or more continuous dimensions (e.g. masculinity, femininity, androgyny). Because gender powerfully shapes people's feelings about themselves and others and their roles in society, careful consideration of the possible meanings of gender and implications for its scientific study is warranted. An additional issue relevant here concerns how faces differ other than gender. Attractiveness, age, ethnicity, and other variables influence face perception and could influence how easily or confidently faces are categorized as male or female. Thus, controlling for variables such as these may affect the outcome of studies of gender perception.
Campbell, R. Benson, P.F., Wallace, S. B., Doesbergh, S., & Coleman, M. (1999).
More about brows: How poses that change brow position affect
perceptions of gender. Perception, 28, 489-504.
Carey, S., & Diamond, R. (1977). From piecemeal to configural representation
of faces. Science, 195, 312-314.