Although prior research suggests that fusiform gyrus represents the sex and race of faces, it remains unclear whether fusiform face area (FFA)–the portion of fusiform gyrus that is functionally-defined by its preferential response to faces–contains such representations. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate whether FFA represents faces by sex and race. Participants were scanned while they categorized the sex and race of unfamiliar Black men, Black women, White men, and White women. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that multivoxel patterns in FFA–but not other face-selective brain regions, other category-selective brain regions, or early visual cortex–differentiated faces by sex and race. Specifically, patterns of voxel-based responses were more similar between individuals of the same sex than between men and women, and between individuals of the same race than between Black and White individuals. By showing that FFA represents the sex and race of faces, this research contributes to our emerging understanding of how the human brain perceives individuals from two fundamental social categories.
About 70% of more than half a million Implicit Association Tests completed by citizens of 34 countries revealed expected implicit stereotypes associating science with males more than with females. We discovered that nation-level implicit stereotypes predicted nation-level sex differences in 8th-grade science and mathematics achievement. Self-reported stereotypes did not provide additional predictive validity of the achievement gap. We suggest that implicit stereotypes and sex differences in science participation and performance are mutually reinforcing, contributing to the persistent gender gap in science engagement.
When physical objects or words are encountered, to what extent is their primary semantic meaning also accompanied by secondary social category associates of semantic meaning? Does such an effect occur without conscious control over the activation of secondary meaning as is true of primary meaning? Automatic priming of the social categories “female” and “male” was demonstrated in two experiments using picture and word stimuli as primes and targets. Experiment 1 used a mixed–modality priming design to provide a stringent test of priming. Primes were words consistent with gender–stereotypic roles (e.g., mechanic, hairdresser) or words containing gender–specific suffixes (e.g., congressman, congresswomen). Targets were pictures of male and female faces that communicated gender as primary meaning. Even though modalities were mixed, gender priming effects were obtained, with stronger effects with female than male primes. Having established the presence of gender priming with items that denote gender primarily (male/female faces), Experiment 2 included a broader set of pictures, using them both as primes and targets to explore the critical hypothesis that even when gender is not the primary meaning communicated by the picture, that mere association to gender leads to systematic and automatic activation of “maleness” or “femaleness.” Although, as expected, the strongest priming effects were observed with pictures that unambiguously denoted gender, the effect was also present for pictures that merely connoted gender through association (e.g., oven mitt vs. baseball mitt). The results are interpreted as evidence for the importance of social category knowledge in knowing and understanding.
Implicit (unconscious) gender stereotyping in fame judgments was tested with an adaptation of a procedure developed by L. L. Jacoby, C. M. Kelley, J. Brown, and J. Jasechko (1989). In Experiments 1-4, participants pronounced 72 names of famous and nonfamous men and women, and 24 or 48 hr later made fame judgments in response to the 72 familiar and 72 unfamiliar famous and nonfamous names. These first experiments, in which signal detection analysis was used to assess implicit stereotypes, demonstrate that the gender bias (greater assignment of fame to male than female names) was located in the use of a lower criterion (B) for judging fame of familiar male than female names. Experiments 3 and 4 also showed that explicit expressions of sexism or stereotypes were uncorrelated with the observed implicit gender bias in fame judgments.