Understanding gender bias in face recognition: Effects of divided attention at encoding

Matthew Palmer, Neil Brewer, Ruth Horry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    Prior research has demonstrated a female own-gender bias in face recognition, with females better at recognizing female faces than male faces. We explored the basis for this effect by examining the effect of divided attention during encoding on females' and males' recognition of female and male faces. For female participants, divided attention impaired recognition performance for female faces to a greater extent than male faces in a face recognition paradigm (Study 1; N=113) and an eyewitness identification paradigm (Study 2; N=502). Analysis of remember-know judgments (Study 2) indicated that divided attention at encoding selectively reduced female participants' recollection of female faces at test. For male participants, divided attention selectively reduced recognition performance (and recollection) for male stimuli in Study 2, but had similar effects on recognition of male and female faces in Study 1. Overall, the results suggest that attention at encoding contributes to the female own-gender bias by facilitating the later recollection of female faces.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)362-369
    Number of pages8
    JournalActa Psychologica
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This research was supported by Australian Research Council Grant DP1093210 . We are grateful to Ee Hong Cherh, Chua Ping Tzeun, Aaron Ho Chee Wei, Nor'Huda Binte Mohamed Abidin, and Nur Azraini Bte Muhd Azri Alfred (all of Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore) for assistance with a pilot version of Study 1. The face stimuli used in Study 1 were obtained from the Face-Place Database Project: Stimulus images courtesy of Michael J. Tarr, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University ( http://www.face-place.org/ ). Copyright 2008, Michael J. Tarr. Funding provided by NSF award 0339122 .

    Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Divided attention
    • Eyewitness identification
    • Face recognition
    • Own-gender bias
    • Recollection
    • Remember-know judgments


    Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding gender bias in face recognition: Effects of divided attention at encoding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this