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

Matthew Palmer, Neil Brewer, Ruth Horry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    17 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 - 2013

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