Humans Can See Race and Sex Even in Simple Outlines
Adult minds are so keen at spotting race, gender and age that we can correctly guess those features from nothing more than a black-and-white silhouette, new experiments show.
"It's surprising how much information the silhouette provides," said Stanford University cognitive psychologist Nicolas Davidenko, who led the study. "We rarely have to identify a person in a silhouette, yet in the experiment, people can do that without difficulty."
The way that our brains process faces, he said, seems so flexible that our minds can even assign people to social and biological categories drawing only on views that occur less commonly in our daily lives—including black-and-white profiles.
Davidenko found that people correctly identified the gender of the person in silhouettes 70 percent of the time. Meanwhile, people guessed the correct age—to within 10 years—68 percent of the time. The study details are published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of Vision.