Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 337–350 | Cite as

Effects of Sexually Dimorphic Shape Cues on Neurophysiological Correlates of Women’s Face Processing

  • Lisa L. M. Welling
  • Patricia E. G. Bestelmeyer
  • Benedict C. Jones
  • Lisa M. DeBruine
  • Kevin Allan


Sexual dimorphism (i.e., masculinity in males and femininity in females) is known to affect social perceptions that are important for both mate choice and intrasexual competition, such as attractiveness and dominance. Little is known, however, about the neurophysiological underpinnings mediating sexual dimorphism’s effects on face processing. Here we investigate the neurological correlates of processing sexually dimorphic faces using event-related potentials (ERPs). We employed image transformation techniques to enhance and reduce the sexually dimorphic shape features of male and female faces viewed by women performing a sex categorization task. Sexual dimorphism modulated superior-central N250 magnitude and the peak latency of the N170 and P200. The sex of the face further modulated the amplitude of the P200. These findings extend prior work linking the superior-central N250 to social categorization processes triggered by face shape, and strengthen its functional interpretation in terms of coarse- versus fine-grained categorical judgements. We conclude that ERPs can illuminate the cognitive mechanisms (i.e., mental processes) underlying behavioral responses to sexual dimorphism.


Faces Sexual Dimorphism Event-Related Potentials N250 N170 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa L. M. Welling
    • 1
  • Patricia E. G. Bestelmeyer
    • 2
  • Benedict C. Jones
    • 3
  • Lisa M. DeBruine
    • 3
  • Kevin Allan
    • 4
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentOakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyBangor UniversityGwyneddUK
  3. 3.Institute of Neuroscience and PsychologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  4. 4.School of Psychology, William Guild BuildingUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK

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