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Higher face recognition ability in girls: Magnified by own‐sex and own‐ethnicity bias

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Earlier studies on adults have shown sex differences in face recognition. Women tend to recognise more faces of other women than men do, whereas there are no sex differences with regard to male faces. In order to test the generality of earlier findings and to examine potential reasons for the observed pattern of sex differences, two groups of Swedish 9-year-old children ( n = 101 and n = 96) viewed faces of either Swedish or Bangladeshi children and adults for later recognition. Results showed that girls outperformed boys in recognition of female faces, irrespective of ethnicity and age of the faces. Boys and girls recognised Swedish male faces to an equal extent, whereas girls recognised more Bangladeshi male faces than boys did. These results indicate that three factors explain the magnitude of sex differences in face recognition: an overall female superior face recognition ability, the correspondence between the sex of viewer and the gender of the face, and prior knowledge of the ethnicity of the face.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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