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Stefan Uddenberg, Brian Scholl; Ten angry men: Serial reproduction of faces reveals that angry faces are represented as more masculine. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):608. doi: 10.1167/18.10.608.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Men are angry. That, at least, is a common stereotype relating gender and emotion. But how is this stereotype realized in the mind? It could reflect a judgmental bias, based on conceptual associations in high-level cognition. But another possibility is that it is (also) more deeply ingrained, such that we actually see male faces as angrier, as a consequence of relatively automatic aspects of visual perception. We explored this using the method of serial reproduction, where visual memory for a briefly presented face is passed through 'chains' of many different observers. Here, a single face was presented, with its gender selected from a smooth continuum between Female and Male. In an exceptionally simple task, the observer then just had to reproduce that face's gender by morphing a test face along the gender continuum using a slider. Critically, both the initially presented face and the test face could (independently) have an Angry or Happy expression, which the participant could not change. Within each chain of observers, these expressions were held constant, while the gender of each initially presented face was determined by the previous observer's response. In most cases, the chains merely converged on a region toward the midpoint of the gender continuum (even when they started out near the extremes). Strikingly, however, we observed a very different pattern — with chains instead converging near the Male extreme — when observers were shown an Angry face but then tested on a Happy face. This is exactly the pattern one would expect if Angry faces are perceived (and thus misremembered) as more Male than they actually were. (In contrast, when Angry faces are tested with Angry faces, this sort of bias effectively cancels out.) These results illustrate how prominent stereotypes have reflections in relatively low-level visual processing, during exceptionally simple tasks.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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