Finally something men are better at doing than women: identifying faces on Transformer toys! Such are the findings of a new study published in Vision Research.
Generally, women are either better than men at recognising faces or both genders are equally able. The new study is, therefore, surprising to the scientific world. The researchers behind the first-of-its-kind work started out with the theory that facial recognition was mostly influenced by experience instead of gender primarily.
“One of the suggestions of this prior work is that that women are inherently better than men at recognizing faces,” says co-author Isabel Gauthier from Vanderbilt University. “But we believe that experience plays a major role in facial recognition so we tried to come up with some way to test our hypothesis regarding this gender difference.”
To validate their hypothesis, they evaluated people identifying faces of toys from their childhood. Men were initially tested with respect to Transformers toys while women with Barbies because the team of researchers assumed that each gender would have its own preferences concerning toys, which was later confirmed through surveying the participants.
“So women had much more experience studying Barbie faces and men had much more experience studying Transformer faces. That difference in experience was just what we needed,” explains Gauthier, justifying their choice.
Building up from these initial findings, the team went a step further by evaluating the ability of both men and women at identifying male and female faces, and Transformer and Barbie faces. A third group was added as control: automobiles ‘faces’.
The findings first show that human faces do not entail gender difference; both men and women displayed equal ability at recognising them. On the other hand, women were better at identifying Barbie faces, and men performed better at recognising Transformers faces, as explains Gauthier; since women are relatively better at identifying faces, she highlights that Transformers faces are the very first type men can recognise better than women.
So, the faces to which you’re exposed in childhood have a lasting effect on you.
“Clearly, the faces you experience as a child leave a trace in your adult memory,” concludes Gauthier. “It is unlikely that this effect is limited to these particular toys.”