Clarifying the role of attention on Own Gender Bias in face recognition

  • Tedis Tafili

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Extensive research in face recognition has demonstrated that we are better at remembering individuals belonging to our own social groups than those who do not. There is a tendency to remember better faces which belong to our own race (Own Race Bias, Meissner and Brigham, 2001), our own age (Own Age Bias, Anastasi & Rhodes, 2012) and even our own gender (Own Gender Bias, Herlitz & Loven, 2013). The present thesis aimed to examine possible underlying mechanisms concerning Own Gender Bias. While research on this topic is fairly limited, in general female observers compared to male observers demonstrate an advantage in face recognition. Further, this advantage is more prominent for female faces than for male faces. This tendency to better recognise same gender faces is only consistent for female observers (Herlitz & Loven, 2013). Recent studies on Own Gender Bias emphasise the role of attention; however two studies (Loven, Herlitz, & Rehnman, 2011; Palmer, Brewer, & Horry, 2013) which have directly investigated its role provide inconsistent results. The role of attention has been further highlighted by Hugenberg and colleagues (Hugenberg, Wilson, See, & Young, 2013), in their recent extension of Categorisation-Individuation Model (CIM), where they aim to apply the model to all Own Group Biases. Hugenberg and colleagues also emphasised the role of motivation, especially for Own Gender Bias, since the perceptual models might be less applicable to Own Gender Bias considering that at their core lays the amount of experience that one has with a category of faces.;By drawing on the plethora of research on Own Race Bias and the recent findings from Own Gender Bias literature, the main aim of this thesis was to examine specific attentional and motivational processes which may underlie Own Gender Bias in face recognition. Studies 1a and 1b investigated the ability of same gender faces in capturing attention when they were task irrelevant. The results did not reveal any gender differences however an initial preferential allocation of attention to the male face was demonstrated (in manual reaction times as well as eye movement analysis), a finding which was interpreted in terms of male faces being perceived as more threatening. It was argued that participant gender might be more important in later stages of attention rather than in the pre-attentional stages of attention. Hence, 12 in study 2a and 2b sustained attention was examined in a go/no-go task, where the face was also task irrelevant. Based on previous findings (Bindemann, Burton, Hooge, Jenkins, & De Haan, 2005), it was assumed that faces would sustain attention compared to other objects, however this finding as well as any indication of gender differences or a possibility of same gender faces holding attention were not found. Therefore, Study 3 used eye tracking technology to examine the role of attention during encoding and recognition stages while participants performed a simple yes/no recognition task. Study 3 aimed to control for perceptual expertise by utilising androgynous faces (gender ambiguous faces) in a between groups design, where for each group, the gender social category of the androgynous faces was activated. Results suggested that female observers outperformed male performers, with no indication of Own Gender Bias being present. The eye movement analysis seemed to suggest that male and female observers differed from each other in the amount of attention that they paid to the eyebrow and the nose regions of the face.;It was only the amount of attention paid to the eyebrow region which was found to result in low accuracy scores; no other pattern for the other internal features was found. Considering the absence of the Own Gender Bias, and findings that participants' sexual orientation seems to modulat
Date of Award2 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorStephen Kelly (Supervisor) & Madeleine Grealy (Supervisor)

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