Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gender Contrasts

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."


Sean said...

Fascinating how such a small difference can change perception so drastically. I'm going to keep my eye out for real-life examples now. Thanks for sharing this.

Walter Wick said...

I could see that they were the same face, even as I would have picked the left imagine as female and the right as male when prompted. However, I don't believe "facial contrast", though a science-sounding term is the cause. I adjusted right side face in photoshop and the "maleness" remained. The left image has been locally toned to appear as lipstick, which was not due to the effect of a global contrast adjustment. The application of "make up" is what tips the balance.

James Gurney said...

Walter, I agree. Good eye. Although the difference between these two faces is often described as simply a difference of overall contrast, as you say, certain features are locally enhanced. That's why I qualified it as "contrast of the features." Russell, in his scientific paper describes the difference like this: "female faces were shown to have greater luminance contrast between the eyes, lips, and the surrounding skin than did male faces."

Walter Wick said...

I won't be delving into that particular scientific paper, but I do love a visual puzzle. Thanks!

Daniel Mccoy said...

Why are people who look like that offended when you git it wrong? Especially when it is a boy with long hair and a face like the one on the left that is just pretentious.

I have made a Dinotopia fan art I call it the Dinotopia and Chandara Railway I would love to mail you the original, but to be honest after I messed up the head of one of the sauropods I started inking it digitally, despite that most of the color is from my new General's drawing & sketching pencil kit.

amuletts said...

What I see is that the 'female' has darker lips and the 'male' has a darker shadow around the nose.

Unknown said...

I think the real subconscious cue is the fact that the photo on the right has the appearance of a slightly darker skin tone (which is common to men of all racial groups), and the fact that the lips on the left image are significantly darker (a common attribute of females). Mostly likely, evolution favored a slightly lighter skin pigmentation for women because of the greater demand for vitamin D in pregnancy, while the redder (darker) lips is a feminine cue of fertility (this is likely why lipstick is used so widely across cultures). These cues are enhanced by increasing the contrast, but my guess is that it's not really the contrast itself that is the important factor.

Scott Burdick

Guenevere Schwien said...

WOW!! I Can't believe you just posted this. I did a painting live yesterday and some people in my audience couldn't tell if the portrait was male or female. Afterward I started to wonder myself what I could do to push the face toward the correct sex. So now I know! Thanks. Here's the painting if you want to check it out. http://gueneveresgarden.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Brad Teare said...

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this interesting observation.