Representation of the Gender of Human Faces by Infants: A Preference for Female
Six experiments based on visual preference procedures were conducted to examine gender categorization of female versus male faces by infants aged 3 to 4 months. In experiment 1, infants familiarized with male faces preferred a female face over a novel male face, but infants familiarized with female faces divided their attention between a male face and a novel female face. Experiment 2 demonstrated that these asymmetrical categorization results were likely due to a spontaneous preference for females. Experiments 3 and 4 showed that the preference for females was based on processing of the internal facial features in their upright orientation, and not the result of external hair cues or higher-contrast internal facial features. While experiments 1 through 4 were conducted with infants reared with female primary caregivers, experiment 5 provided evidence that infants reared with male primary caregivers tend to show a spontaneous preference for males. Experiment 6 showed that infants reared with female primary caregivers displayed recognition memory for individual females, but not males. These results suggest that representation of information about human faces by young infants may be influenced by the gender of the primary caregiver.
Infant Interest In Male Faces
Background and Aims: Visual preferences for and categorization of faces may serve as important precursors to the formation of stereotypes based on facial appearance (Ramsey et al., 2004). Given the differential attributions and treatments that result from stereotyping, it is vital to understand the development of such stereotypes. Because most infants have greater experience with female than male faces, this study investigated how the cues of attractiveness and masculinity may make some male faces seem more familiar (i.e., more “female-like”) than others and how this familiarity may guide their visual preferences.
Method: Six- and 12-month-olds saw eight pairs of male faces that differed in masculinity (Condition 1), attractiveness (Condition 2), or both (Condition 3). They saw each pair twice with the left-right positions reversed during the second showing. Each trial lasted 15 seconds. Some infants saw the faces within blocked trials—the type of face pair remained constant during eight sequential trials (e.g., high attractive face pairs differing in masculinity). Some saw the faces within randomized trials—the type of face pair varied (e.g., high and low attractive face pairs differing in masculinity). We coded where and how long infants looked, and the gender of infants’ primary caregiver (PC).
Key Results: Results demonstrated that combinations of infant, primary caregiver, facial stimuli, and study characteristics affected infant looking. For example, for the 6-month-old Caucasian babies, several higher order interactions were found: a) infant gender x trial type x PC gender, F(1, 776) = 31.43, p < .0001; b) infant gender x condition x PC gender, F(1, 776) = 16.37, p < .0001; c) condition x trial type x PC gender, F(1, 776) = 8.46, p = .003; and d) condition x trial type x masculinity x attractiveness, F(2, 776) = 3.23, p = .04.
Conclusions: Infant characteristics, such as gender and their experience with faces (i.e., PC gender), and study characteristics, such as what comparison was being made and whether infants had the opportunity to learn about the types of faces being shown, impacted infant looking toward the male faces more than or in combination with the male facial characteristics. These results suggest that infant interest in male faces is a dynamic process that is dependent on many variables and not solely on the characteristics of the face.
By, Ho Khee Hoong