Experimental Brain Research

, 198:373 | Cite as

Gender bending: auditory cues affect visual judgements of gender in biological motion displays

  • R. van der Zwan
  • C. MacHatch
  • D. Kozlowski
  • N. F. Troje
  • O. Blanke
  • Anna Brooks
Research Article


The movement of an organism typically provides an observer with information in more than one sensory modality. The integration of information modalities reduces the likelihood that the observer will be confronted with a scene that is perceptually ambiguous. With that in mind, observers were presented with a series of point-light walkers each of which varied in the strength of the gender information they carried. Presenting those stimuli with auditory walking sequences containing ambiguous gender information had no effect on observers’ ratings of visually perceived gender. When the visual stimuli were paired with auditory cues that were unambiguously female, observers’ judgments of walker gender shifted such that ambiguous walkers were judged to look more female. To show that this is a perceptual rather than a cognitive effect, we induced visual gender after-effects with and without accompanying female auditory cues. The pairing of gender-neutral visual stimuli with unambiguous female auditory cues during adaptation elicited male after-effects. These data suggest that biological motion processing mechanisms can integrate auditory and visual cues to facilitate the extraction of higher-order features like gender. Possible neural substrates are discussed.


Biological motion Gender Point-light Aftereffect Audiovisual integration Multisensory 



This work was supported by ARC Discovery project DP0209615 to vdZ.

Supplementary material

221_2009_1800_MOESM1_ESM.avi (2.7 mb)
Three movies of the walkers used in these experiments. These show the actual stimuli used in these experiments. The luminance polarities are as used in the experiments (dark dots on grey background). The movie “Walker −6” is the extreme female walker. This stimulus was used to adapt observers to “female” walking. (AVI 2,749 kb)
221_2009_1800_MOESM2_ESM.avi (2.7 mb)
The movie “Walker −1” is the stimulus closest to the point of gender ambiguity on the continuum used in these experiments. Statistically in the female part of the continuum adapting to a male walker made this Walker −1 appear more female. Adapting to a female walker made Walker −1 appear more male. (AVI 2,780 kb)
221_2009_1800_MOESM3_ESM.avi (2.7 mb)
The movie “Walker +6” is the extreme male walker. This stimulus was used to adapt observers to “male” walking. (AVI 2,774 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. van der Zwan
    • 1
  • C. MacHatch
    • 1
  • D. Kozlowski
    • 1
  • N. F. Troje
    • 2
  • O. Blanke
    • 3
  • Anna Brooks
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Behaviour, Department of PsychologySouthern Cross UniversityCoffs HarbourAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and School of ComputingQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain-Mind InstituteEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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