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Tamara Lea Watson, Yumiko Otsuka, Colin Walter Giles Clifford; Who are you expecting? Biases in face perception reveal prior expectations for sex and age. Journal of Vision 2016;16(3):5. doi: 10.1167/16.3.5.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
A person's appearance contains a wealth of information, including indicators of their sex and age. Because first impressions can set the tone of subsequent relationships, it is crucial we form an accurate initial impression. Yet prior expectation can bias our decisions: Studies have reported biases to respond “male” when asked to report a person's sex from an image of their face and to place their age closer to their own. Perceptual expectation effects and cognitive response biases may both contribute to these inaccuracies. The current research used a Bayesian modeling approach to establish the perceptual biases involved when estimating the sex and age of an individual from their face. We demonstrate a perceptual bias for male and older faces evident under conditions of uncertainty. This suggests the well-established male bias is perceptual in origin and may be impervious to cognitive control. In comparison, the own age anchor effect is not operationalized at the perceptual level: The perceptual expectation is for a face of advanced age. Thus, distinct biases in the estimation of age operate at the perceptual and cognitive levels.
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