August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Dominance Elicits the Own-Gender Bias in Males
Author Affiliations
  • Natalie Motta-Mena
    Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Giorgia Picci
    Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • K. Suzanne Scherf
    Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 497. doi:
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      Natalie Motta-Mena, Giorgia Picci, K. Suzanne Scherf; Dominance Elicits the Own-Gender Bias in Males. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):497.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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People use the structure of the human face to form social impressions. These social dimensions of face processing have direct relevance for motivating social behavior, like selecting and competing for potential mates. Therefore, men and women may be differentially sensitive to the visual information relevant to these dimensions. For example, structural characteristics of faces that convey dominance (e.g., signals of physical strength) may be especially relevant for males when considering behavior related to male-male mate competition. Here, we evaluated the hypothesis that priming males to attend to dominance cues (but not likability cues) in other male faces would instigate heightened sensitivity to male faces in subsequent tasks of face processing. Adult male and female participants were tested in a series of face processing tasks that included measuring the perceptual sensitivity to dominance, likability, and facial expressions, as well as face recognition for both male and female faces. Half the participants began the testing with the dominance task and the other half with the likability task. We predicted that males, but not females, who executed the dominance but not the likability, task first would subsequently exhibit an own-gender bias in the face recognition and expression detection tasks; that is, superior recognition and sensitivity for detecting expressions in male compared to female faces. Indeed, compared to males who received the likability task first, males who processed dominance in faces prior to the other tasks consequently exhibited the own-gender bias in the subsequent face processing tasks. Females did not show any such biases as a function of which face attribute task they performed first. These findings suggest that, contrary to the existing literature, there are conditions under which males do exhibit an own-gender bias in multiple aspects of face processing and that females do not always show superior face processing abilities.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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