Sex Roles

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Gender Typicality of Faces Affects Children’s Categorization and Judgments of Women More than of Men

  • Jennifer L. RennelsEmail author
  • Stephanie A. Verba
Original Article


Most infants display more perceptual knowledge of female than male faces, which is related to their predominant experience with women. If disparities in social experience persist beyond infancy, children should have a better developed sense of what typifies female than male faces. Gender typicality of faces should therefore more often impact their cognitive decisions for female than male targets. To test this possibility, we assessed U.S. 5- to 9-year-olds’ (n = 81) responses when making similarity judgments, spontaneous gender references, and typicality decisions for female and male targets whose faces were gender typical or atypical. Parental reports confirmed most children had predominant experience with female caregivers. Consistent with predictions, gender typicality of faces differentially influenced children’s similarity and typicality judgments for female, but not male, targets. It did not influence their spontaneous gender references, perhaps due to the task being more cognitively demanding. Results show children more reliably detect the gender typicality of female than male faces, which affects their social groupings and decisions about what constitutes a good example of a face more so for female than male targets. Findings might help explain the origins of women being judged by their facial appearance more so than men. Moreover, high feminine-looking women seem to elicit the female category more than low feminine-looking women do, which could elicit greater gender-role expectations for women with high feminine faces.


Social cognition Classification Judgment Face perception Physical appearance 



Portions of the present data were presented at the March 2016 Society for Research in Human Development in Denver, CO. This research was supported by a UNLV Graduate College Faculty Doctoral Graduate Research Assistant Award and, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1148049).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

These data are not under consideration for publication elsewhere nor have these data been published previously. There are no conflicts of interest that might have influenced the research. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Social and Behavioral Sciences Internal Review Board approved this study and treatment of subjects was in accordance with the ethical standards of APA.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_997_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA

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