Memory & Cognition

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 146–160 | Cite as

The perception of face gender: The role of stimulus structure in recognition and classification

  • Alice J. O’Toole
  • Kenneth A. Deffenbacher
  • Dominique Valentin
  • Karen McKee
  • David Huff
  • Hervé Abdi


The perception of face gender was examined in the context of extending “face space” models of human face representations to include the perceptual categories defined by male and female faces. We collected data on the recognizability, gender classifiability (reaction time to classify a face as male/female), attractiveness, and masculinity/femininity of individual male and female faces. Factor analyses applied separately to the data for male and female faces yielded the following results. First, for both male and female faces, the recognizability and gender classifiability of faces were independent—a result inconsistent with the hypothesis that both recognizability and gender classifiability depend on a face’s “distance” from the subcategory gender prototype. Instead, caricatured aspects of gender (femininity/masculinity ratings) related to the gender classifiability of the faces. Second, facial attractiveness related inversely to face recognizability for male, but not for female, faces—a result that resolves inconsistencies in previous studies. Third, attractiveness and femininity for female faces were nearly equivalent, but attractiveness and masculinity for male faces were not equivalent. Finally, we applied principal component analysis to the pixel-coded face images with the aim of extracting measures related to the gender classifiability and recognizability of individual faces. We incorporated these model-derived measures into the factor analysis with the human rating and performance measures.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alice J. O’Toole
    • 1
  • Kenneth A. Deffenbacher
    • 2
  • Dominique Valentin
    • 1
  • Karen McKee
    • 1
  • David Huff
    • 1
  • Hervé Abdi
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Human Development, GR4.1University of Texas at DallasRichardson
  2. 2.University of NebraskaOmaha

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