Converging evidence of ubiquitous male bias in human sex perception

Justin GAETANO*, Rick VAN DER ZWAN, Matthew OXNER, William G. HAYWARD, Natalie DORING, Duncan BLAIR, Anna BROOKS

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Visually judging the sex of another can be achieved easily in most social encounters. When the signals that inform such judgements are weak (e.g. outdoors at night), observers tend to expect the presence of malesâ€"an expectation that may facilitate survival-critical decisions under uncertainty. The present aim was to examine whether this male bias depends on expertise. To that end, Caucasian and Asian observers targeted female and male hand images that were either the same or different to the observers' race (i.e. long term experience was varied) while concurrently, the proportion of targets changed across presentation blocks (i.e. short term experience change). It was thus found that: (i) observers of own-race stimuli were more likely to report the presence of males and absence of females, however (ii) observers of other-race stimuliâ€"while still tending to accept stimuli as maleâ€"were not prone to rejecting female cues. Finally, (iii) male-biased measures did not track the relative frequency of targets or lures, disputing the notion that male bias derives from prior expectation about the number of male exemplars in a set. Findings are discussed in concert with the pan-stimulus model of human sex perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0148623
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Gaetano et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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