Gender Differences in Recognition of Toy Faces Suggest a Contribution of Experience
Ryan, Kaitlin Frances
When there is a gender effect, women perform better than men in face recognition tasks. Prior work has not documented a male advantage on a face recognition task, suggesting that face recognition is a unitary domain for which women may excel either due to evolutionary reasons or the influence of social roles. Here, we question the assumption that face recognition is a unitary domain and provide a proof of concept based on a face category for which men outperform women. We developed a test of face learning to measures individual differences with face categories for which men and women may differ in experience, using the faces of Barbie dolls and of Transformers. The results show a crossover interaction between subject gender and category, where men outperform women with Transformers’ faces. We demonstrate that men can outperform women with some categories of faces, suggesting that explanations for a general face recognition advantage for women are in fact not needed.