Sex differences in unfamiliar face identification: evidence from matching tasks

Megreya, Ahmed M.; Bindemann, Markus and Havard, Catriona (2011). Sex differences in unfamiliar face identification: evidence from matching tasks. Acta Psychologica, 137(1) pp. 83–89.



Research on sex differences in face recognition has reported mixed results, on balance suggesting an advantage for female observers. However, it is not clear whether this advantage is specific to face processing or reflects a more general superiority effect in episodic memory. The current study therefore examined sex differences with a face-matching task that eliminates memory demands. Across two experiments, female but not male observers showed an own-sex advantage on match trials, in which two pictures have to be identified as the same person. This advantage was present for whole faces and when only the internal or external facial features were shown. Female observers were also more accurate in these three conditions on mismatch encounters, in which two photographs have to be identified as different people, but this reflects a more general effect that is present for male and female faces. These findings converge with claims of a female advantage in face recognition and demonstrate that this effect persists when memory demands are eliminated.

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