|Third Place, Illusion of the Year, 2009|
What can you say about the gender of these two faces?
They're sort of on the borderline, but if you had to say one was male and the other was female, what would you say?
Most people say the face on the left is female and the one on the right is male.
This is just an illusion because they're both the same androgynous face. The only difference is that the contrast of the features is increased in the face on the left, and the contrast is reduced in the face on the right.
According to the psychologist Richard Russell, who created of this illusion, "Contrast is an important cue for perceiving the sex of a face, with greater contrast appearing feminine, and lesser contrast appearing masculine."
He observes that cosmetics in women serves to heighten this difference, increasing the contrast, particularly around the eyes and mouth. "Female facial beauty is known to be closely linked to sex differences," he says, "with femininity considered attractive. These results suggest that cosmetics may function in part by exaggerating a sexually dimorphic attribute—facial contrast—to make the face appear more feminine and hence attractive."