Viewing gender-specific objects influences perception of gender identity

September 26, 2012
Perception of faces is biased towards the opposite gender after six seconds of exposure to objects associated to one gender. Credit: Citation: Javadi AH, Wee N (2012) Cross-Category Adaptation: Objects Produce Gender Adaptation in the Perception of Faces. PLoS ONE 7(9): e46079. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046079

Spending too much time looking at high heels may influence how a viewer perceives the gender of an androgynous face, according to new research published Sep. 26 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Amir Homayoun Javadi of Technische Universität, Dresden and his colleagues. The study sheds new light on how the objects surrounding us may influence our perceptions of gender.

The authors found that when people view objects highly associated with one gender, like high heels for women or electric shavers for men, for a short period of time and are then asked to identify the gender of an androgynous face, they are more likely to identify it as being of the gender opposite to that associated with the stimuli.

Previous studies have demonstrated that continuous exposure to certain causes short and long term with temporary aftereffects due to repeated stimulation of specific pathways in the brain. For example, after prolonged exposure to a red screen, a viewer is more likely to perceive a white screen as being green (the perceptual opposite of red). This study, though, is the first demonstrating that such adaptation can occur for a more abstract feature like gender perception.

The authors suggest two possible explanations for their results. The first possibility they suggest is that common may be involved in identifying gender-associated objects and identifying the gender of androgynous faces, so the effect is akin to what occurs in the red screen-white screen example above. Alternately, the researchers suggest that a higher cognitive function of 'adapting to gender' may modulate the process of 'assigning gender', whether to an object or an androgynous face.

"This study highlights how exposure to objects in our environment can affect our perception of gender in everyday life" says Javadi, lead author of the paper.

Explore further: New research sheds light on how we see family resemblance in faces

More information: Javadi AH, Wee N (2012) Cross-Category Adaptation: Objects Produce Gender Adaptation in the Perception of Faces. PLOS ONE 7(9): e46079. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046079

Related Stories

New research sheds light on how we see family resemblance in faces

November 21, 2011
Whether comparing a man and a woman or a parent and a baby, we can still see when two people of different age or sex are genetically related. How do we know that people are part of a family? Findings from a new study published ...

Recommended for you

Children with fragile X syndrome have a bias toward threatening emotion

August 23, 2017
Anxiety occurs at high rates in children with fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. Children with co-occurring anxiety tend to fare worse, but it can be hard to identify in infants. ...

So-called "bright girl effect" does not last into adulthood

August 23, 2017
The notion that young females limit their own progress based on what they believe about their intelligence—called the "bright girl effect"—does not persist into adulthood, according to new research from Case Western Reserve ...

Like adults, children show bias in attributing mental states to others

August 22, 2017
Young children are more likely to attribute mental states to characters that belong to the same group as them relative to characters that belong to an outside group, according to findings published in Psychological Science, ...

Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience

August 22, 2017
Many people report positive health effects from practicing yoga and meditation, and experience both mental and physical benefits from these practices. However, we still have much to learn about how exactly these practices ...

Wealth disparity and family income impact the brain development of female youth

August 22, 2017
Female teenagers living in neighbourhoods with wide salary gaps and a low-income household show changes to their brain maturation that could indicate a higher risk of developing mental illness in adulthood, suggests a recently ...

High moral reasoning associated with increased activity in the human brain's reward system

August 22, 2017
Individuals who have a high level of moral reasoning show increased activity in the brain's frontostriatal reward system, both during periods of rest and while performing a sequential risk taking and decision making task ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.