Face recognition is as old as human history itself. We are have always relied on our brain to help us identify faces we are familiar with. This functioning of the human mind has been used by researchers in developing technologies which is contributing to use the facial recognition system as a security measure. What started with biometric applications like iris scan and finger print scan is now being transformed into the facial recognition system. Today recognition of facial features is being adopted across industries and installations. A question that flows is which of the sexes recognize faces better. Is it males or females who show greater propensity towards facial recognition? This study is an attempt to find out whether the quality of accurate facial recognition is a function of whether one is male or female.
It so often happens to us that recollection of the name of a known face poses a difficulty. Many a times we make mistakes in identifying the faces of people whom we have seen previously. But why does this happen? Why do we make mistakes in face recognition? Studies have shown that memory often works in the reconstructive mode and not necessarily reproductive. This means when we see a face and is able to recognize the face, it is not recollection but a recreation of the experiences related to the face. Hence we feel good when we see someone we are comfortable with and otherwise if we have had unpleasant experiences. Another experience happens when we feel a face to be familiar but is unable to exactly relate where we had seen it before (Schacter, 2001). The ability to recognize faces correctly also depends on the attention. So if we keenly observe a person for long, we will be able to recognize him/her easily on the next interaction. As we don’t observe everyone with the same attention there is bound to be difference is the degree to which we can correctly recognize faces.
When such complexities of memory are involved, facial recognition mistakes are likely to happen. But following the observation above of how faces appear familiar but we tend to forget the association, it is interesting to learn how this occurs for males and females. In other words, it is an interesting area of research to study how the mind of a male and female functions when posed with the challenge of facial recognition. Is the degree of accurate facial recognition a function of a person’s gender or does males and females have the same propensity to identify or fail to identify known faces? This paper is an attempt to study our hypothesis that females perform better than males when it comes to facial recognition. The process detailed below was undertaken to collect data to support our hypothesis that females are better face recognizers. If this study validates this hypothesis, it will also provide data which will prove beyond doubt our hypothesis.
Based on the purpose and situation, appropriate algorithms can be chosen for the purpose of face recognition of the subject (Basu, n.d).
Sex and facial recognition
There are studies available which point to a gender bias when it comes to recognition of faces. Studies have also found a group bias is face recognition as well. For example it has been studied that people of a particular group or community are more adapt at recognizing faces of other belonging to the same group or community (Malpass & Kravitz, 1969). Also age is a factor which plays has a role in the recognition of faces. Those studied under such experiments have shown a propensity to recognize faces of their own age more easily then faces of people younger or older to their age (Wright & Stroud, 2002). Limited studies are available which points to the fact that women are more adapt at recognizing faces when compared to their male counterparts. In such studies an interesting trend which comes to light is the fact that women easily recognize faces of other women compared to recognition of male faces (Rehnman & Herlitz, 2006). Some studies also shows that males recognize female faces readily than faces of those belonging to their group (Wright & Sladden, 2003).
Given these observations it is found necessary to conduct a study comprising of both male and female respondents to see how each group performs on recognition of faces.
For this study both male and female correspondents were shown a number of male and female faces in groups. So males were asked to recognize from a group of male and female faces and females respondents were also asked to do the same. This mapping exercise was conducted for different groups of faces with each group being a heterogeneous mix of male and female faces. The number of accurate recognition for each group was then measured and the results tabulated to study to arrive at a conclusion. Twenty such groups were shown to both participants during the exercise and the number of correct recognitions made was recorded for each group.
The tabulated result from the experiment shows that females are indeed more accurate in their recognition of faces. While men respondents could identify 118 faces correctly, the figure was high for female respondents. They could correctly recognize about 163 faces of all shown during the experiment. On an average, while a male could recognize about 6 faces correctly, female respondents could recognize about 8 faces correctly. Mean deviation for males was recorded at 1. 35 while that for women were 0.75. This signifies high fluctuation in facial recognition by males while women were more consistent in their recognition of faces and hence the deviation from mean in below 1.
The above recorded findings are important for they validate the findings of some other studies which had indicated that females are more equipped for proper face recognition than males. How females are able to detect faces so accurately? Studies indicate that this can be attributed to the system of encoding which plays a crucial part (Sporer, 2001). The theory involved is that at the encoding stage, people attend to faces of their own group. This is true for female because they are more likely to observe more female faces than male faces. Therefore the percentage of correct female facial recognition is high, which also indicates to gender bias.
Studies which establish that men can better recognize female faces aren’t widely available. Hence there is lack of evidence to show that men readily recognize female faces. But some studies concluded that males perform better in recognizing male faces. This has in some case been found to be better than women. The perception that women outperform men on facial recognition can be attributed to the high incidence of recognition that happens when women see women faces. This percentage pulls the overall scoring in favor of females. However, what is often brought into question is the generality of such results. Because studies can be cited, even though some are solitary, which expose differences among men and women in cases of face recognition. Hence there is further scope to study this aspect and its numerous facets to arrive at a holistic conclusion about the relation between sexuality and the ability to recognize faces.
The mini lab report, interpreted above clearly shows that there is a gender link to the percentage of correct facial recognition. Though limited in number, conducted studies had pointed to this fact and the reason for this seems to be the process of information encoding in females which in sharp contrast to that of males.
Malpass, R. S., Kravitz, J. (1969). Recognition for faces of own and other race. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 13(4). Pg. 330-334.
Rehnman, J., Herlitz, A. (2006). Higher face recognition ability in girls: Magnified by own-sex and own-ethnicity bias. Memory. 14(3). Pg. 289-296.
Sporer, S. L. (2001). Recognizing faces of other ethnic groups: An integration of theories. Psychology, Public Policy and Law. 7. Pg. 36-97.
Schacter, D. L. (2001). The seven sins of memory. Houghton Mifflin.
Thakur, S; Sing, J.K.; Basu, D.K; Nasipuri, M; Kundu M. (n.d.). Face Recognition using
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Wright, D. B., Sladden, B. (2003). An own gender bias and the importance of hair in face recognition. Acta Psychologica. 114. Pg. 101-114.
Wright, D. B., Stroud, J. N. (2002). Age differences in lineup identification accuracy: People are better with their own age. Law and Human Behaviour. 26(6). Pg. 641-654.