Lips and skin color give way to your gender: It is seen that when colored information is not available, brain still focuses on mouth region, but quickly jumps to region near the eye.

Researchers from the Psychology Department at the University of Montreal claim that a person’s gender can be determined quite efficiently by the color of their skin or lips. Moreover, the brain also analyzes the reflection of light in the eye, which provides more information but requires time to be fully interpreted.

Nicolas Dupuis-Roy and Professor Frédéric Gosselin reached this conclusion after conducting a study on 100 participants that involved them guessing the gender of 300 individuals just by seeing parts of their faces.

 Validity Reassured

Previous studies in this regard have been somewhat limited in validity, using non-realistic pictures or pre-determined facial regions to be investigated. For this study, full-portrait pictures of 300 Caucasian men and women were gathered from online sources. Some women wore make-up, and all the men were clean-shaven. There were no other visible items, just as clothing or ornaments that could give away the gender – the idea was to reduce the chances of any methodological bias and increase the validity of the results.

Interesting Outcome

Making use of the ‘bubbles’ technique, the colored (chromatic) and gray tones (achromatic) areas of the pictures were randomly sampled for 200 milliseconds, leaving only a part of the visual information at a time. This allowed researchers to determine exactly which facial regions were significant for the study, and when was the information extorted from the brain. As the facial regions were shown to the participants, they were asked to simply identify: “Is this the face of a man or a woman?”

The results revealed that achromatic information in the eyebrow and eye regions and chromatic information in the mouth region were the most important in gender recognition via facial images. The brain quickly extracted colored data from the mouth region – hardly 12 milliseconds after the image was show to the participant.

“Information in this area is situated along the red-green chromatic axis,” Dupuis-Roy explained. “But contrast between the lips and skin is more pronounced in women than it is in men because their skin color generally contains less red and therefore greener. This contrast is perceived by our brain as a female characteristic.”

Color Vs. Grayscale

Generally, participants were seen to process colored pictures more efficiently as compared to those in grayscale. According to Dupuis-Roy, this is most probably because color makes it easier to process information by amplifying low spatial frequency signals, as well as by adding additional gender information.

This is most likely to be an adaptive advantage associated with natural selection. The researcher also noted that certain cues, such as lip-redness, are often linked to better cardio-respiratory health and higher levels of estrogen. Furthermore, it was seen that when colored information was not available, the brain still focused on the mouth region, but quickly jumped to the region near the eye.

Dupuis-Roy believes that other areas of the face, such as the facial outline, chin and nose might also be involved in determining the gender of an individual. However, the areas specified in the study are of primary importance in terms of visual representation and gender identification.

Disproving A Belief

With these results, the researcher focused on another question connected with facial recognition – “Are inter-attribute distances (natural differences in positions of the eyes, nose, eyebrows and mouth) critical in determining face gender?”

It is usually believed that wider eyes or more distance between the eyes and eyebrows are significant gender traits. To find the answer, he showed 60 participants 514 faces with real-world inter-attributable distances.

“For many years, scientists believed that the distances between the eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth were essential in facial recognition, but most of the studies on the subject had exaggerated these distances. As per the results seen, inter-attribute distances based on real-world faces are not critical in determining the sex of person,” Dupuis-Roy concluded.