Male or female? An investigation of factors that modulate the visual perception of another's sex

Lucy Johnston, Lynden Miles, C. Neil Macrae

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


One of the most fundamental aspects of social perception is the identification of the sex of others. Sex-based categorization occurs rapidly, spontaneously and accurately upon encountering another person. Such rapid and effective perception is consistent with the evolutionary importance of sex-based categorization. Survival may literally depend on an individual's ability to correctly identify, and procure, conspecifics for the purpose of reproduction. In this chapter we provide evidence for the malleability of even this most basic of categorizations. We describe a program of research that has investigated the functional nature of sex identification from facial information. We present evidence for the impact of biological influences (cyclical fluctuations in female fertility) and social/motivational influences on the efficiency of the person perception process. We first consider perceiver effects. We describe a number of experiments that have demonstrated that both biological and motivational factors can influence the efficiency, the speed and accuracy, with which female perceivers identify males. We then consider target effects. We describe two experiments that have demonstrated that the efficiency of both male and female perceivers in categorizing the sex of others is influenced by facial features of the targets. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Psychology of Visual Perception
EditorsEmily Balcetis, G. Daniel Lassiter
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780203848043
ISBN (Print)9781848728042
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2010
Externally publishedYes


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