The Impact Of Facial Features On Gender Perception Essay

We naturally determine the gender of everyone we encounter in everyday life, and the way we perceive the gender of individuals is known as gender perception. There are a plethora of ways that gender is perceived, the first way is through superficial cues such as hair length, clothing, and makeup. The second way that the brain categorizes individuals to certain genders is based upon their facial features such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. This paper Through this research study, we will be diving deeper into the original research in order to explore when identifying the gender of both male and female faces what isolated facial features are most important as well as concluding if the sex/gender of the participant will affect the judgements as well.

Literature Review

As we interact with one another, one of the first conclusions we make is determining someone’s gender. As a society, we use cues that are superficial such as voice pitch, hair length, and makeup to make our gender perceptions as accurate as possible. Notwithstanding, if these superficial cues are removed, we can still identify and categorize individuals as a female or male. Bruce, Burton, Hannah, Healy and Mason (1993) discovered that whenever photographs of men and women that did not have any superficial cues were distributed to the study’s participants, that there was an accuracy in their perceptions by 96%. These findings offer the idea that the gender of a person is determined upon other factors. Bruce et al. (1993) used 3D laser scans of the photos in order to edit out the facial features such as eyebrows and the texture of the skin in order to hide what might be a key component in gender perception. During the initial set of experiments, the researchers chose to cover particular areas of the face such as the eyes, nose, and chin in order to see if it would alter the way we see gender through photograph and the laser scanners. The results displayed that we perceive gender less accurately through the 3-D laser scans. Brown and Perrett (1993) administered a study that was complementary to the research previously described. The researchers confined the archetypal facial features of females and males consisting of 16 females and 16 males faces that were the ‘average’ male and female. The researchers found that every facial feature excluding the nose helped give indication of someone’s gender from an area that is isolated. Campbell, Benson, Wallace, Doesbergh, and Colman (1999) further delved into this research by refining their target to an individual’s eyebrows, especially the distance from the brow and the eyelid. First, they made the participants furrow and raise the eyebrows to decrease and increase the distance. The researchers found through the results that the raising the brows is perceived as more ‘feminine’ while lowering the eyebrows is deemed as more ‘masculine’. These results are attributed to females physically structured with a brow-lid distance that is larger than males. This study will differ because neutral eyebrows and expressions will be used to control the study in order to ensure that it will be based solely on facial features.

Another question that has come to mind during research on gender perception is whether the participant’s gender/sex affects the results when evaluating someone’s face. Cellerino, Gorghetti, and Sartucci (2004) wanted to find out if both sexes/genders are equivalently efficient at gender perception. Both parties were successful at identifying gender, but the researchers added spatial filtration to the photographs of the female and male faces distorting the image. Spatial filtration uses different lens to alter each photo’s distribution of lighting, and using another lens to clean up the alterations of the photo so that the changes to the face appear natural. The results showed that it was much easier to discern the perception of a man’s gender, but much more difficult to identify a female’s gender without more information of facial cues. This study also provided the results that a female is much better at perceiving their own gender than a man is at perceiving other men’s gender.

These researchers conducted a similar study to Cellerino (2004), but Rhenman and Herlitz (2007) added the variables of ethnicity and age in their research. The participants were shown faces of females and males from Bangladeshi or Swedish descent at the ages of children and adults. Through their findings they discovered that women still recognized faces more accurately, and especially were able to identify the gender of other women. These results confirmed that there is an own-sex bias that is more apparent in females than males. Age and ethnicity did not affect the individual’s face with gender perception. The previously mentioned studies investigated the influence of the gender of the participants as well as certain facial features whenever perceiving the gender of an individual’s face. The purpose of this current study, the Perception of Gender Study, was to discover what facial features are the most important in determining the gender of a face as well as exploring the effect of a participant’s gender has on the accuracy of their judgement. Throughout the earlier studies, facial features such as the brows, nose, and eyes are focused on, but our study will include the mouth isolated. Research participants will examine pictures of female and male faces in three conditions: “full view” showing the entire face without superficial cues, “eyes only” the eye and brow area is only shown, and lastly the “mouth only” condition. We hypothesize that people will be able to predict a person’s gender most accurately with the condition of the “full view” of the face followed by the eyes, and then the mouth.

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