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No categorical perception of face gender found with different discrimination tasks


Bülthoff,  I
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bülthoff, I. (2002). No categorical perception of face gender found with different discrimination tasks. Poster presented at Second Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2002), Sarasota, FL, USA.

Faces are easily categorized as male or female. But is this categorization done at the perceptual level? In previous studies (ECVP 2001), we found no categorical perception of gender for face stimuli using two discrimination tasks: either simultaneous same-different task or delayed matching-to-sample. This conflicts with results of another study using a different task (Campanella et al, Visual Cognition, 2001). Here we tested whether categorical perception of gender might become apparent if we used a discrimination task (sequential same-different task) more similar to that used by Campanella et al. We employed the same type of stimuli as in our previous experiments. The face stimuli were created by generating series of morphs between pairs of male and female 3D faces (gender continua). We also generated a gender continuum based on an average face. While gender-related information was present in this latter continuum, the stimuli lacked individual characteristic facial features that might induce identity-related categorical perception. If male and female faces belong to perceptually distinct gender categories, we would expect that two faces that straddle the gender boundary are more easily discriminated than two faces that belonged to the same gender category. In our previous experiments we never found any evidence of categorical perception for unfamiliar faces. Our present results confirm these findings. We found no evidence that participants could discriminate more easily between faces that straddle the gender category. Thus no categorical effect for face gender was revealed when sequential same-different discrimination task was used. The conflicting results obtained by both studies do not appear to be due to the different discrimination tasks employed.